Niagara Gazette

May 2, 2013

School board seat battles brewing in Falls, Niagara-Wheatfield

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — With less than three weeks until taxpayers make important decisions about the future of local education, school board candidate positions have been also been finalized.

Niagara Falls City School District is where most of the competition exists this year, with six candidates seeking two seats.

Seeking reelection will be incumbents Don King, a 35-year veteran of the city's school board, and the Rev. Kevin Dobbs, himself a three-term member. Challenging them will be North Tonawanda School District administrator Ronald Barstys, former City Councilman Michael S. Gawel, city electrician Anthony Paretto and resident Herbert Lewis.

Both positions are five-year terms.

Along with the school board election, Niagara Falls residents will also be asked to decide on a spending plan of $124 million spending plan which, if approved, would increase the tax levy the district will seek by 3 percent.

The increase would be the first in 20 years in the city.

Niagara-Wheatfield also has some competition for its school board brewing. After the resignation of Michael Brock, former board member Lori Pittman was appointed to fill in.

Pittman is seeking a fresh term, while being challenged by both Amy Duell of Sanborn and Lorna Tilley-Peltier of Wheatfield.

Current board member Kathy Fleming is not seeking a new, three-year term.

Because of Brock's resignation, the district's election will be slightly different than normal. The candidate which receives the most votes will immediately fill the seat currently held by Pittman, while the second-highest tally will guarantee a seat beginning in July.

While deciding candidates, voters will also be asked to make a decision whether to support a $62.8 million, which includes a 5.91 percent tax levy increase proposal, the maximum the district can ask for under New York's cap.

Much of the drama for Lewiston-Porter voters come May 21 will focus on financial matters. With three school board positions opening, only three candidates submitted petitions to seek election before the deadline last month.

Pending each receiving one vote in the district's election, current board President Jodee Riordan and newcomers Anna Wright and Betty VanDenBosch Warrick will serve three-year terms beginning July 1. Current board members Jim Sperduti and Jerome Andres will not seek new terms when they expire June 30.

Much more focus in Lew-Port will be on the district's school budget, with a $40 million spending plan requiring a 60 percent supermajority of voters to gain approval. This is because the plan calls for a 5.5 percent tax levy increase, exceeding the district's cap figure which was set at 4 percent.

Residents will also be asked to vote on a $26 million capital improvement project which Superintendent Christopher Roser said would not impact taxes itself with funding coming from state sources unable to affect district spending in its yearly budget.