By Rick Pfeiffer firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — In the Niagara Falls School District on Tuesday it was a bad day for incumbents and a closer than usual vote on the annual budget.
District voters turned out of office a pair of school board members with more than 50 years of combined service. They elected two new board members who had never before run for elective office.
“I was out at the polling places early and the feedback I got was people were saying ‘No’ to the incumbents,” said Anthony Paretto. “They were OK with the budget, but they were saying no to incumbents.”
Paretto was the top voter getter among six candidates seeking to fill two open school board seats. Another newcomer, Ronald Barstys finished second in the balloting.
“I’ve never run (for an elected office) before, well maybe Homecoming King back in high school, but I lost that,” Paretto said. “I’m thrilled. I’m about speechless. I got some good support from some good people.”
A union electrician, Paretto had strong support from a number of local unions including the Niagara Falls Teachers (union).
“I didn’t think I was gonna win this morning,” Paretto said. “I thank everybody that voted for change.”
Incumbent school board members Kevin Dobbs and Don King finished third and fourth in the voting, though neither was close to Paretto and Barstys.
Two other newcomers to school board politics, Herbert Lewis and former City Councilman Michael Gawel finished fifth and sixth in the voting respectively.
Voters OK’d the district’s proposed $124 million general operating budget, which included a 3 percent tax increase. It was the first school tax increase in 20 years for the district.
The voter was 1,473 yes and 975 no.
“We usually win the budget vote by a margin of two to one, so there is a little bit of a statement here,” Schools Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said. “I’m very happy about the budget (vote). It’s still a nice margin (of victory). I think the voters accepted a modest (tax) increase after 19 years.”
Bianco said the passage of the budget means there will be no cuts in programs or services in the district.Niagara Falls School Board Elections Results: Anthony Paretto: 1,076 Ronald Barstys: 957 Kevin Dobbs: 878 Don King: 716 Herbert Lewis: 481 Michael Gawel: 343 District Budget: Yes: 1.473 No: 975