ADVERTISEMENT

Polls are closed in 37 districts in Erie and Niagara counties, where voters across the region had their say on school budgets today.

The Buffalo News will provide live results on the School Zone blog.

Turnout was brisk in communities where voters were asked to exceed the tax cap.

A proposal to increase tax revenue by 9.8 percent galvanized residents in Clarence, where long lines in the high school gym stretched nearly to the door and a vocal campaign to defeat the budget included signs and mailers. High school students lined up on Main Street, homemade signs in hand, to urge approval of the budget.

“There’s passion on both sides of the argument,” Clarence Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks said.

Polls in most districts will close at 9 p.m.

The 5,500 voters who had cast ballots in Clarence by 6 p.m. had nearly doubled the school district’s previous record high of 2,800 set in 2005, Clarence schools business administrator Rick Mancuso said.

There was a steady stream of residents voting at Lewiston-Porter School District this afternoon, with strong opinions both for and against the $40 million budget.

Clarence and Lewiston-Porter have proposed budgets that would exceed the state-imposed tax cap and will need 60 percent voter approval to pass.

“I think the state should pick up the slack,” said Dick Marino, of Lewiston, one of a number of retirees who said they did not support the increase in Lewiston-Porter. “I don’t support a budget like that.”

All districts in Erie and Niagara counties except Lackawanna and Cheektowaga-Sloan have proposed budgets that would increase the amount of taxes collected, with the average tax levy increase at 3.3 percent. With rising retirement costs and other constraints, districts have been running out of options for ways to cut spending.

If a budget fails, a school district can submit the same proposal or a new proposal again to voters in June. If the second plan fails, the school must adopt a contingency budget that would not include a tax levy increase.

“My taxes are too high,” said Kathleen Whitehead, who voted at Lockport’s Charles Upson Elementary School. “I don’t think a lot of the things they do in these schools are necessary. We got by with a lot less.”

email: cspecht@buffnews.com News Staff Reporters Denise Jewell Gee, Joseph Popiolkowski, Nancy Fischer and Thomas Prohaska contributed to this report.