Newsmaker of the month: Budget votes prove area backs Albany’s policies

Many residents in Chautauqua County still — to this day — are quick to blame Albany for burdensome mandates and high taxes. While there is some truth to that, there is an even greater fact to how we are our own worst enemies.

Consider the school budget voting that took place this month. In record numbers, residents mailed ballots to their districts regarding budget plans. While some of the proposals held the line on taxes or decreased spending when compared to the 2019-20 budget, others still increased spending.

Unsurprisingly — as is usually the case — school budgets passed in comfortable fashion.

Making matters worse in these approvals is the uncertainty with state aid to the schools. New York state coffers are hurting due to the coronavirus pandemic. By some estimates, the New York is running a $15 billion deficit.

Schools are going to be impacted — if not this year, then definitely next. And, worst-case scenarios include the decrease of aid from Albany by 20 percent. For all schools — no matter how large or small — that will be devastating.

So what then? Do districts move forward with the spending plan as is? Do districts raise taxes? Or do they cut staff?

Chautauqua County, with 18 school districts, approved all spending plans in major economic downturn. Disdain for how much Albany assists us or how left leaning New York City can be has no bearing in this argument.

As we have noted in the past, Western New York contributes about 24% to state spending while taking 36% of the Albany pot, according to a study done early in 2010. Judging from the current demographics — and the recent head-shaking school votes — this region seems quite content to take more than its fair share of state money.

What does all this mean? Despite constant complaining, we just gave Albany our blessing to tax and spend more.


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