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Turnout Expected to Be Low for School Budget, Board Votes

Buffalo, NY (WBEN)  School districts across New York State send voters to the polls today to pass judgment on their proposed spending plan, to elect new board members, and in some cases decide on propositions ranging from bond issues to board term limits.

Check your District's Report Card on proposed Spending & Taxes  HERE   


There could be pockets of participation whereever controversy is on the ballot.

A few examples:

--Hamburg ,where a simmering discussion of board members, and their competence has boiled over to the point the superintendent's car was recently vandalized and threatening notes were left.

--In Holland, which is the only district in upstate New York seeking to exceed its state mandated tax cap, and must therefore pass a budget by more than a simple majority of the voters.

-In Niagara-Wheatfield, where ten  faculty members, six sports and several music programs could be cut from the budget.

--In Springville, where term limits for board members is on the ballot.
And yet - apart from pockets of participation--  turnout is not expected to break ten percent in most places where controversy is absent.  

At or At The Bottom of This Page

Will you vote on your local school district budget/board today?
( 48% )
( 52% )

"You are probably going to see a turnout in the teens at best. I never understood that," says Tim Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association.

"Here's something where you have the opportunity to vote on probably your biggest portion of your property tax and something as important as public education and you would come out to vote but they don't," Kremer says. 

"I think it's easy to kind of feel like ' what does my one vote do' in state or federal elections, but when you are talking about a school budget, there's real consequences of not voting. " 
    -Brendan Biddlecom of "Keep Clarence Schools Great ",  a group formed in light of last year's contentious battles over taxes and spending.

Kremer says a beautiful day or other things on their mind may be why more people don't vote, but he believes a new tax rebate program may get people to take the vote for granted. "The state is going to pick up the difference of any increase between this year and next year provided a district stays at or below the tax cap.

"The fact of the matter is they're going to look at this and say it's a reasonable budget. Any increase we're going to get a rebate on, so I doubt they'll be turning out in droves this year," predicts Kremer.

North Collins Interim Superintendent Joan Collins agrees, having seen voting swing to both extremes during her time as Orchard Park Superintendent.

  Thomas's Law:

"When taxpayers are unhappy, and they have let you know that through your budget presentations, you will have a very high turnout"

  -- Joan Thomas, Interim Supt. North Collins, Former Orchard Park Supt.
"When I first started in Orchard Park, I want to say we had close to 6,000 people turn out for a (controversial) budget vote. It passed, but just barely. I remember crying because it was so close. A few years before that there were 13,000 people who came out to vote down the plans for a new high school.  My last year, there were 1,200 to 200 people. "

The controversy can cool quickly. One year after lawn signs and rallies spotlighted the debate over an austerity budget in Clarence, this year's turnout is likely to be far less, according to Biddlecom, who worries about how low turnout cann allow single issue voter groups to define the debate.

"It's not just lack of voter turnout, but it's knowing what you are getting into, peeling back the layers and really getting into the issues," he says.

Filed Under :  
Topics : Education
Locations : Buffalo
People : Tim Kremer
05/20/2014 6:49AM
Turnout Expected to Be Low for School Budget, Board Votes
Please enter your comments below.
05/20/2014 7:22AM
Primary day across the country also too
Lots of Tea Party Patriots going up against the GOP establishment, including some extra-special Sarah Palin-endorsed heroes! Wonder why WBEN would keep quiet about all that ... remember when Bobby Jindal suggested you people stop being the Stupid Party? Yeah, me neither.
05/21/2014 12:43AM
Joe T.
In most school districts it doesn't make much sence to vote. If you vote the budget down some places make you vote again or use the contigency budget which is almost as high. Why anyone in New York state would vote for a tax increase is beyond rational thinking.
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