Incumbents keep seats, budgets pass in Williston-area school votes

Rose Weldon
Mineola residents will vote on the 2020–21 Unopposed incumbent trustees Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion and Patrick Talty each won another term in this year's school elections. (Photos courtesy of the candidates)

Incumbent school board trustees retained their seats and budgets were roundly passed in districts serving the Williston area on Tuesday during school elections, which had been delayed by state order due to the coronavirus.

The election was conducted with absentee ballots.

In Mineola, incumbent Board of Education members Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion and Patrick Talty, running unopposed, were re-elected. Ballantyne-Mannion, the board’s vice president, will begin a third term after receiving 2,711 votes. Talty, running for his second term, received 2,732 votes. 

The $100,859,780 budget, a 0.9 percent increase over the $99,955,750 budget for 2019–20, was approved by 74.63 percent of voters. The budget comes with a proposed tax levy increase of 2.5 percent, below the state-mandated limit for the district.

In East Williston, school board President Mark Kamberg was re-elected to the board, and the district’s $56.7 million budget for the 2020-21 school year was approved, with 1,411 votes in favor and 556 opposed.

Kamberg defeated challenger Raymond Del Maestro, 1,423 votes to 556.  Trustee Tasneem Meghi was also re-elected to the board with 1,467 votes after running unopposed.

Kamberg has served on the board since 2008. He has lived in Albertson for 19 years, and is the president of S. Kamberg & Company, a food ingredients company based in Great Neck that his father founded.

Before the election, Kamberg said he hoped his track record with the East Williston school district would speak for itself. 

“Twelve years has meant 36 moving up and graduation ceremonies, over 160 concerts, and plays, multiple academic award ceremonies, 600-plus board, committee, and PTO meetings and countless other, community, state, and even national events on behalf of our district,” Kamberg said. “It has allowed me to celebrate the successes of our children as well as continue to learn more about what I can do for our district.”

Efforts to reach Meghi for comment were unavailing.

In the Herricks district,  Trustees Henry R. Zanetti and James Gounaris kept their seats over newcomers Bhajan S. Ratra and Tarantej S. Arora.

The campaign, marked by the challengers critiquing the incumbents over the school’s budget and issues of transparency during Board of Education meetings, came to a head when Gounaris posted a photo of a ballot paper on Facebook, tagging Zanetti, with the bubbles next to Gounaris’ and Zanetti’s names clearly filled in. The image was captioned, “This is the correct way to fill out your Herricks ballot.” 

Ratra and Arora reported the post to the district clerk, the New York State Board of Elections and Nassau County Board of Elections requesting that they investigate the “unfair and unethical practices” of Gounaris and Zanetti regarding the election. Gounaris said the post was legitimate.

In his race, Zanetti received 72 percent of the vote, with Ratra receiving 28 percent. The other race saw Gounaris receive 72 percent to Arora’s 28 percent. 

The proposed $120,534,523 budget, a 2.547 percent increase from the 2019-20 budget of $117,541,264, was passed with 63 percent of the 4,924 ballots in favor. 

Robert Pelaez contributed reporting. 

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