Are You Ready To Vote?

04.12.12 | Ralph Kerr | Comments[0]

Are You Ready To Vote?

            In all suburban districts throughout New York State the school budgets have been finalized, the school board candidates’ petitions have been filed but YOU still have important work to do.

            Tuesday, May 15 is the day voters in all school districts, except the Big Five, which includes Buffalo and Rochester, should plan on heading to the polling booth in their district to vote. School Board members, administrators, teachers and hopefully community members have been working hard to develop a budget that will adequately serve the children of the district, yet keep in mind the ability of district tax payers to pay the bills. Once again this has been a very difficult year for schools. Although State Aid increased this year, costs continued to rise faster than revenues and the State imposed Property Tax Cap of 2% is in place. As a result many districts have been forced to lay off teachers, administrators, and support staff again this year. In addition some districts have reduced budgets for sports, clubs, supplies, transportation, and employee benefits. Still other districts have chosen to close entire school buildings and share services with nearby districts. None of these choices are easy but they are necessary in the financial circumstances we find ourselves in. Hopefully you have taken the time to learn about the budget in your district. If not, you have one final opportunity. All districts will be holding a Public Hearing on the proposed budget, either this week or next. This year school budgets throughout our State will total more than $5 billion, yet normally less than 10% of the eligible voters generally take the time to cast their vote on the budget. I urge you to educate yourself about the budget and then exercise your right to vote on the budget on Tuesday, May 15.  

Tax payers are becoming more vocal about increasing property taxes. School tax increases are a major contributor to the increases in everyone’s property taxes. School budgets are also the only budgets that local tax payers actually get to vote on. Voting for or against the school budget may send a message to other branches of government about the current mood of voters as it pertains to tax increases within their areas of responsibility.

On Voting Day voters will also have the opportunity to vote to elect new school board members, or re-elect current members. Board candidates have gathered signatures on a candidates petition, talked to many friends, neighbors and community members, perhaps spent personal money on election materials, prepared position statements and made personal appearances throughout their community. All of this work in an effort to secure a non-paying, sometimes controversial, time consuming position on the school board. You can honor these dedicated public servants by taking the time to vote on Tuesday, May 15.

I urge you to find out who the candidates are in your school district and determine which ones share your values and priorities. Board members are responsible to hire all employees, recommend an annual budget, approve textbooks and generally represent the community values and opinions. This is important work.

 

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