Niagara Gazette

May 20, 2013

EDITORIAL: Get out and vote in the school elections on Tuesday

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — We all have some important decisions to make Tuesday. Unfortunately, if recent history is any indication, very few will make the effort.

School budget votes and school board elections are being held at the three local districts and there’s a lot at stake.

All three districts — Lewiston-Porter, Niagara Falls and Niagara-Wheatfield — had a tough time arriving at the budgets residents will be voting on Tuesday. All three districts are looking to raise the tax levy as well.

• Lew-Port is looking at a 5.5 percent increase — and is one of a handful of New York school districts looking to exceed the tax cap, meaning it will need more than 60 percent of voters to approve the plan.

The spending plan does do its fair share of cutting positions in addition to raising taxes, eliminating or reducing 29 positions heading into next school year. Part of a four-year slash in staffing — mainly accomplished through attrition until the current year’s budget called for layoffs — the plan affects several programs throughout each of the district’s four buildings.

• Niagara-Wheatfield threatened to cut its kindergarten program, then backed off and adopted a $62.8 million spending plan that raises the tax levy 5.91 percent. The spending plan does eliminate six teaching jobs after 43 were lost last June and some programs at the schools.

Three candidates are also running for two open seats on the school board.

Despite the tax levy increase being more than Lew-Port’s, the increase in taxes is the maximum percentage Niagara-Wheatfield is allowed under New York’s property tax levy threshold cap, due to exemptions school districts are allowed to factor into cap calculations.

• Niagara Falls is raising taxes for the first time in 20 years but is holding the tax levy increase to 3 percent. The Falls’ maximum percentage increase under the cap is 3.77 percent.

In addition, six candidates are running for two school board seats — those held by Kevin Dobbs and Don King. Both men are seeking re-election.

It’s all in your hands now. We’re not going to tell you how to vote but we hope you’ll make the effort to get out to the polls — and make an informed decision once you’re there. After all, this is your chance to determine how much they’re going to pay in local taxes, and in a couple cases, who’s going to serve on a school board.