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Cap wipes out need for vote

Newsmaker of the month: Passing marks for school plans

In New York state, since 2012, school districts and municipalities have had to adhere to a tax cap. If the taxing entities went over the cap, there needed to be legislation that was approved by the municipal government or the school districts needed to have voters give 60 % approval to spending plans.

What we saw this past week in regard to the school district votes was the tax cap in action. Districts that stayed under the cap all had budgets approved. The one district in the county that was over the cap — Clymer with a 13.29% increase in the levy — failed when it did not receive the required 60 % vote.

Needless to say, those who lead the fiscally strapped district are stumped. Within the last two years, district residents there overwhelmingly said “no” to partnering with neighboring Panama for a school merger.

It seems to be a case of be careful of what you wish for as the uncertainty has increased. “I don’t know,” Clymer Superintendent Ed Bailey said attempting to explain the turnout. “We’re obviously confused as to what the taxpayers want. They voted down a merger and now have voted down two budgets. It puts the board and the school district in a situation where we’re not sure what they want.”

A revote on the plan is expected to take place on June 18, but in a perfect world, that would be the only district to vote this year.

All other district budgets were under the state-imposed tax cap, which led to district residents giving their blessing to the plans. Which leads to this question: should residents continue to vote on budgets in districts where the tax cap is being met?

According to the New York State School Boards Association, 99.5% of the districts at or under the tax cap passed spending plans. The districts over the tax cap fared much worse — with 10 of 18 plans approved.

There is hardly any outcry or interest any more regarding spending, even in what was once hostile territory in the city of Dunkirk. There, only 248 voters went to the polls.

Turnout in the votes has become lower and a state tax cap has set a barometer that residents apparently approve. Maybe the time has come to end school budget votes, especially if spending plans are under the tax cap.

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