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School district budget proposals win voter approval

Fri, May 24th 2024 09:30 am

Niagara County voters mimic state trend; Lew-Port, NW, NF, NT & Wilson budgets all pass

By Terry Duffy


Niagara County residents joined with voters from across the state in ratifying proposed school budgets and electing board of education members for 2024-25 on Tuesday.

Recapping unofficial voting from select Niagara County school districts:

•Lewiston-Porter Central School District voters approved the district’s proposed $54,651,119 budget by a count of 624 in favor to 242 opposed. The measure reflects a 2.12% increase in real property taxes over last year. Lew-Port voters also approved proposition No. 2, the district’s $11.15 million Capital improvement plan by a count of 609-240.

On the Lew-Port Board of Education, elected were Sara Ohanessian (547 votes) and Tessa Connelly (530), to fill the two open, at-large seats for a three-year term. Steven J. Tarnowski finished third (446).

•In Niagara Wheatfield, the district’s $87,072,229 budget was approved 624 to 277. It brings a calculated tax levy of 3.08%, which, along with various district reserve account transfers, will go to cover NW’s $319,577 reduction in approved state aid for 2024-25.

Voters also approved proposition No. 2 (671 to 277). The measure provides for spending $810,000 in reserve funds to purchase school buses. Proposition No. 3, to spend up to $200,000 in reserve funds to purchase technology equipment, also was approved (694-203).

On the school board, top vote-getters for the three open seats were: Richard Sirianni (607), Craig Guiliani (542), Wendy Cox (502) and Steve Sabo (487).

•In the City of Niagara Falls, the district’s proposed $190,992,049 budget was approved (1,507 to 280). Winning election for the two open seats on the Board of Education were Nicholas Vilardo (866) and Bradley McLeod (842). Just behind were Jerry Pulero (751), Carlton Cain (576) and Portland Jackson (416).

•In the City of North Tonawanda, the district’s $83.5 million budget was approved (447-117). Proposition No. 2, providing for $39.9 million in capital improvements, was also approved (443-119).

On the NT Board of Education, for three open seats, Krista Vince Garland was the top vote-getter with 463, followed by Kailyn Baker (454) and Stephanie Emiliani (441).

•In the Wilson Central School District, the proposed $29.4 million budget was approved (161-63). Proposition No. 2, providing for a non-voting student member on the BOE, was approved, too. (175-46).

Top vote-getters on the Wilson Board of Education were Christopher Carlin (190) and Bethzaida Hart (183).

The New York State School Boards Association said state voters approved 97.3% of proposed school district budgets, signifying a continuing support of education in a troubled economy.

"New York voters continue to support their school budgets in large numbers, and our association greatly appreciates that support," NYSSBA Executive Director Robert Schneider said. "Voters understand that their boards of education are crafting spending plans that maximize student services and programs while balancing the ability of their local taxpayers to pay."

Despite increasing costs, school districts were able to limit their tax levy increases to an average of 2.58% statewide while holding their proposed spending increases to 3.58%, NYSSBA noted.

NYSSBA reviewed voting results for 671 of the 675 districts statewide that held budget votes. A total of 653 school district budgets were approved by voters, while 18 were defeated. Where budgets were defeated, school districts may again put a budget before voters on June 18.

Statewide, 32 districts sought approval to override their property tax caps this year, meaning their proposed budgets needed a 60% "super majority" approval to pass. Of those seeking an override, 22 budgets passed and 10 failed, a 68.8% approval rate.

Since the tax cap was introduced in 2012, about two-thirds of budgets requiring an override have been approved on the first try.

For the 639 districts whose budget was within the tax cap and needed support from only a majority of voters for budget passage, 631 (98.7%) passed on the first try.

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