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Most NY School Budgets Pass

New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer

Voters in New York approved nearly 98 percent of school district budgets this week.

All New York state public school budgets were up for a vote May 15th. New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer says while most of them passed, Fort Edward is a notable exception:  "They had a special circumstance there, which is oftentimes what is the cause of a defeat. There is something locally that has happened that is causing controversy, consternation. In that instance there's a GE plant, I think it was a water filtration plant, that sought a reassessment of the property value of the plant and won it, dramatically reducing the property value. And that burden, the property tax burden, shifted from the GE plant to the residents."

Downstate, New Rochelle and Brewster school budgets also went down to defeat, along with some districts in western New York. Residents get a second opportunity to vote on June 19. If proposals get rejected again, districts must adopt contingency budgets that do not raise taxes beyond last year’s levy.

The Greater Johnstown School District's budget was approved by voters 461-439 but did not pass. Kremer explains.  "What they were seeking is an override of their property tax cap, which meaning they needed a supermajority of 60 percent of the voters to say yes. This has happened in with some frequency over the past few years since the cap came into play."

Statewide, schools proposed an average tax levy increase of 2.14 percent.

In addition to passing budgets, voters across the state filled nearly 1,536 vacancies on local school boards.  New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta:   "One great part of this was they came out and they voted and they supported educators. They supported NYSUT members who ran for school board seats, and they won. They won by wide margins. We have about 30 new NYSUT members that are now sitting on school boards, and what's great about that is they make decisions based on education. They make it based on their experience as educators, as teachers, as someone who cares about the entire school system and wants to teach the whole child."

Kremer notes that 6 out of 10 of the elections for school board seats were uncontested.  "In a district, let's say a typical district, you had three people running for three seats. That was common. And nobody was running against anybody. We did have over 50 percent of the people who were running for those available seats, about 1,500 seats, were incumbents seeking reelection. The rest of course were people who would be new to the school board seats."

Kremer attributes the shortage of candidates to the difficulties of office.  "I think what people see is this is not an easy place to be. You know you're a kind of shock absorber for a lot of things that happen locally. I always tell audiences 'remember, you have my money and my kids and I know where you live.' And you're accessible to the people who are your electorate, immediately. You go to the store, you walk down the street, you go anywhere in town, you're a school board member and people know that and they may have something they may want to say to you. We don't get a lot of pats on the back, by the way, it's usually something they have something to gripe about, and you're right there, so you do take a lot of heat."

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