District voters overwhelmingly approved a $58 million 2015-16 school budget Tuesday, as well as tax exemption for veterans that will start with the 2016-17 budget.
All three voter propositions passed overwhelmingly as 1,636 voters went to the polls.
Proposition 1 - The $58,114,136 school budget was passed 1,162 "yes" votes to 474 "no" votes. It calls for a 1.75 percent tax levy increase.
"The community continues to show their commitment and support for quality programs and a top-notch school system," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence said of the budget's passage.
Proposition 2 - The bus proposition, to purchase transportation vehicles at a cost not to exceed $650,000, passed with 1,064 "yes" votes to 524 "no" votes.
Proposition 3 - The highest vote total was gained by those affirming the veterans tax exemption, which passed 1,297 to 338. The proposition would call for exemptions of "12 percent, an additional 20 percent, and 40 percent of the veteran's disability rating as determined by the Veterans Administration or Department of Defense, for wartime veterans, combat veterans and veterans who sustained a service-related disability, respectively, pursuant to the following maximum exemption amounts: wartime $12,000, combat $20,000, disability $40,000."
The exemption will take effect in the 2016-17 school year. The Board of Education voted to put the issue up for a referendum as a separate proposition on the day of the budget vote.
The passage of the exemption "says that this community equally values and supports veterans," Lawrence said. She pointed out that, in the past 10 years, almost 100 students from Grand Island High School have graduated and chosen to go into some service.
"This is a community that means something to them and, like the budget vote, they voted with their hands. They told us what was important to them and I credit the board for making a decision and then honoring the community to weigh in on that decision, if they wanted to support it. It was very telling by the outcome."
Seven candidates were on the ballot for three seats on the Grand Island Board of Education. Board members who will be sworn in July 1 for three-year term are Joy LaMarca, incumbent Glenn Bobeck (787 votes), and Richard D'Agostino (749).
LaMarca, attorney and partner at Block, Longo & LaMarca P.C., was the top vote-getter with 834 votes. Her running mates, D'Agostino and Ashli Dreher (701 votes) finished third and fourth, respectively.
"I would like to thank our community of voters, the Grand Island Teachers' Association, the School Related Professionals, NYSUT, Ashli Dreher, Rich D'Agostino and all volunteers," LaMarca said. "I also want to thank my husband, Aaron, for all of his support. I promise to work with our community, teachers, parents and administration to serve in the best interests of our children."
LaMarca and D'Agostino were endorsed by the GITA.
"Obviously, I'm very happy," D'Agostino said after the election results were announced outside the polling place in the high school main gym. "Grand Island is a great place to live, so I'm extremely honored, privileged and proud to have this opportunity to serve the students and their families with the rest of the board members."
"We need to put our students and families first," he said.
D'Agostino said that, as the son of a veteran of the 82nd Airborne, he was especially happy to see the veterans tax exemption pass.
Bobeck said he "was just happy to continue to do what I've been doing for the last nine years." He will enter his fourth three-year term and will be the longest-serving trustee on the board.