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Voters face big decisions

May 13, 2012
The Leader Herald

It's that time of year again when local residents get the opportunity to cast votes on important matters in school districts. We hope voters will take advantage of that opportunity.

Voters Tuesday will decide on school budget proposals and board elections throughout Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties.

This is a significant year for the budgets, which now are restricted by a state-imposed cap on the tax levy. The cap often is referred to as 2 percent, but the actual cap varies among school districts depending on the exemption of certain expenses.

Several area districts are proposing budgets that exceed their tax caps. In those cases, approval from at least 60 percent of the voters will be needed to pass the budgets. Among the districts seeking to exceed the cap are the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District and the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District.

The Fonda-Fultonville plan seeks a nearly 8 percent tax-levy increase. The Oppenheim-Ephratah plan includes a 4.5 percent increase in the levy. Both districts likely would enact further spending cuts if voters reject the budgets. Fonda-Fultonville is warning of deep reductions if it has to stay within the tax cap.

The tax increases in the proposed Gloversville and Johnstown school budgets fall below the tax cap and maintain programs and staff. Gloversville's budget seeks a 1.9 percent tax-levy increase. Johnstown's plan seeks a 2 percent levy increase.

Some of the school board races Tuesday will be interesting, especially in Gloversville. In that city district, seven candidates are vying for three seats.

Unfortunately, in Johnstown, three seats are up for election, but only two candidates filed petitions to get on the ballot. That means the third seat will be filled by a write-in candidate. The Northville Central School District has a similar situation. There, one seat is up for election, but no one filed petitions to get on the ballot, resulting in a write-in election.

It's too bad more people don't run for school board, but low voter turnout would make matters even worse. School districts are struggling through a difficult financial period and are making critical decisions on spending, staffing and programs. People should get out and make their voices heard at the polls.



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