Story and photo by Larry Austin
Island voters elected two newcomers to the Grand Island Board of Education Tuesday, while approving a $51 million budget for 2010-11.
With 1,873 votes cast, the voters approved the $51,881,233 budget plan 1,285 to 588. A proposition to replace school buses and other transportation equipment at $767,700 passed 1,218 to 639.
Board President Richard Little said the budget passage was "tremendous."
"It's great to see so many people come out and vote. It's great to see the support for the budget. It's great for our kids and great for our community to see that kind of support."
The budget passed by a large margin, but two of the board incumbents who helped craft it were defeated in the school board trustee election. Newcomers Donna Tomkins and Paul Krull won three-year seats on the Board of Education in a four-way race. Tomkins received 1,248 votes and Krull received 1,016. They defeated incumbents Tom Franz (437) and Neil Seaman (434).
After the election results were announced, Tomkins said she was speechless "for once." She said the voters "realize we need change. We need fresh ideas on the school board, new people, new blood."
"The taxpayers are finally saying, look, it's time to go in a new direction," Krull added.
Krull said, "I look forward to working with the rest of the board."
"This is democracy in action and the Island voters have made their choice," Seaman said. "My congratulations to the two winners. I wish them well in their board service." He said passage of the budget told him the board is doing a good job with regard to the fiscal direction of the district.
"I believe the community wants to go in a different direction, and I'm not in sync with that. People decided they wanted to change the board, and I wish them well with that," Seaman said.
The budget passage culminated months of work in response to a $1.6 million cut in state aid. School Superintendent Robert Christmann said the budget "reflected lots of hard work on the part of staff and administrators. We always strive for a balance between our students and our taxpayers, and I think we came up with a budget that met the two sometimes differing interests."
He called the budget "solid" for both school programs and taxpayers.
"Having the only budget in Erie County that was asking fewer dollars of our taxpayers was something that we worked very hard to get," Christmann said.