by Susan Mikula Campbell
Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District voters on Tuesday gave thumbs up to the district's $69.19 million school budget for 2010-11.
Vote on the budget was 655 yes and 191 no.
There was no contest for the two open school board seats. Incumbent Kathy Fleming received 683 votes and newcomer Michael Brock received 649 votes.
Total number of votes cast in the election was 863, about the same as last year, but considerably down from past years. According to Business Office records, the vote was 847 last year for the current budget. In comparison, the vote for the 2008-09 budget was 1,755; for 2007-08, it was 1,555; for 2006-07, it was 1,673; and for 2005-06, it was 1,755.
This will be the fifth year of no increase in the district's tax rate and the fourth year of no increase in the total tax levy. The actual budget increase from the current school year is 0.59 percent.
The traditional chicken barbecue sale to support the Niagara-Wheatfield Sports Alliance was set up near the door of the high school's Adult Learning Center. Only 28 of 255 dinners were left at 5:50 p.m.
"We'll sell out for sure," said Bob Cliffe, Wheatfield supervisor and NWSA president, noting that the barbecue funds help the NWSA provide two $500 scholarships each year.
After voting, John Olear of Wheatfield picked up dinners with the help of his daughter Allyssa, a fourth-grader at St. Christopher's School.
"I teach at Sweet Home, so I know voting's important; it's for the kids," he said.
N-W senior Matthew Keener recently turned 18 and cast his first vote in the N-W election. He wanted to make sure programs for students, like the new after-school academic Twilight program, didn't face cuts.
"I figured I'd come and help them out," he said.
Robert Alessi of Wheatfield and his wife, Susan, also were among the voters. He figures he's missed just two elections in about 50 years.
"I vote in everything - primaries, school boards. ... It's my right," he said. "It's truly important. I think more people should do that."