Attempts to exceed school tax caps in Clarence and Lewiston-Porter failed on Tuesday, while voters in two dozen other communities gave approval to spending plans that would increase taxes.
A proposed 9.8 percent hike in tax revenue galvanized residents in Clarence, where voter turnout set a record high of 8,232 and long lines in the high school gym remained after polls closed. A vocal campaign to defeat the budget included signs and mailers, and high school students lined up on Main Street with homemade signs in hand to urge approval.
But for a large and vocal contingent of town residents, a nearly 10 percent tax hike was just too much to ask.
“It just bothers me they take from seniors who are really struggling, just to pay for luxuries,” said Ellie Corcoran, 72. “They want to get from A to Z in a Cadillac instead of a Chevy.”
Voters in all but two of the 37 school districts in Erie and Niagara counties that held elections on Tuesday were faced with budgets that increased the amount of taxes collected. In many districts, those tax increases were proposed along with budget cuts to make up for steep increases in teacher pension costs and state aid that remains lower than three years ago.
Despite those tax increases, voters in 24 districts approved school spending plans, according to early results. Five budget proposals were defeated, the others being Alden, Wilson and Niagara Wheatfield.
“I happen to believe that the most important thing we can provide our kids is a good education,” said George Mekker, a retired Kenmore West teacher who was among those who approved a budget proposal in Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda.
Clarence school leaders took the high turnout in Clarence as a sign they must cut more.
“I think any time you have a community cast 8,000 votes and the previous highest turnout was around 3,000, the people have spoken, and it’s up to us to listen to that message,” said Clarence Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks.
School districts where budget proposals were defeated Tuesday can present the same budget or a revised version to voters in June. If that fails, they must adopt a contingency budget that does not raise the amount of taxes collected.
Hicks said the school board would hold a special meeting to consider its options. The district would need to cut another $2.44 million from the budget to get to the district’s 3.8 percent tax cap.
“It’s up to us to roll up our sleeves and get to the tax cap,” Hicks said.
Voters in Clarence also defeated a proposal to buy new buses and swept in two new School Board members who had campaigned against the proposed tax increase.
“The voters have spoken,” said Roger Showalter, who won a board seat along with Jason Lahti. “People turned out because they want their voice heard and they want better fiscal management of their tax dollars.”
Lewiston-Porter Superintendent Chris Roser, speaking before the budget vote, said he anticipated the Lewiston-Porter School Board would work toward crafting a new budget that remained within the state’s tax cap. That would mean about $500,000 in additional budget cuts, he said.
Turnout appeared to be higher than in other years in this year’s hotly contested School Board race in Hamburg, where voters approved a spending plan that increased tax revenue by 5.4 percent.
Cindy Ripley said her daughter got a good education when she went to Hamburg, and she is “really concerned about our school.”
“I’m really concerned that what is happening for kids is the right thing,” Ripley said.
But the focus across Western New York on Tuesday was in Clarence, where the days leading up to the election brought allegations of sign stealing and vandalism. Passion on both sides of the budget vote was visible on Main Street, where students lined up with homemade signs. “Do we cut students next?” one of the signs read. Another urged voters to vote yes and “Save Music.”
Others held up large “NO” signs.
Brendan Biddlecom said he voted yes to protect extracurricular activities like music class that affect his three young children.
“They’ve cut a lot of things over the past few years,” said Biddlecom, 33. “ I just think that’s going to hurt not only the schools, but the entire community.”
Carol Poliner said she voted no because she felt the district could make budget cuts without harming programs by asking teachers and administrators to pay more for their health care.
“I’m sure that they can find ways of making ends meet like the rest of us do without raising the taxes by 10 percent,” Poliner said.
Both sides in Clarence could agree on one issue: Never has a budget vote in Clarence been more contentious.
“I grew up here,” Biddlecom said, “and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Candidates (elect three): Phillip Kenline (i), 392; Shannon Cinotti, 381; David Penn (i), 316.
Budget: Yes, 420; No, 218.
Candidates (elect one): James Yoerg (i), 839.
Budget: Yes, 495; No, 743.
Proposition 2: Purchase four 66-passenger buses at a maximum cost of $460,000: Yes, 644; No, 594.
Proposition 3: Purchase a one-ton pickup truck with plow package, a used 14-foot box truck and a snow blower attachment for a lawn machine for the Building and Grounds Department at a maximum cost of $63,000: Yes, 640; No, 596.
• Candidates (elect two): Dominic Vivolo, 712; William Shaflucas, 679.
• Budget: Yes, 627; No, 276.
• Propositions B: Transfer $400,000 from the district’s unrestricted fund balance to the district’s Repair Reserve Fund: Yes, 735; No, 156.
• Candidates (elect one): Heather DuBard, 298; Dennis S. Kusak Jr., 208.
• Budget: Yes, 334; No, 212.
• Proposition 2: Student ex-officio nonvoting board member: Yes, 442; No. 94.
• Candidates (elect two): Sean Kaczmarek, 814; Richard Piontek (i), 167. Claire Ferrucci (i) ran unopposed.
• Budget: Yes, 712; No, 398.
• Proposition 2: Eliminate mileage boundaries for transportation to schools: Yes, 605; No, 497.
• Proposition 3: Reform Board of Education election policy to reward candidates with highest total votes: Yes, 724; No, 360.
• Proposition 4: Allow a student position on the Board of Education with nonvoting, noncompensation status: Yes, 799; No, 284.
• Candidates (elect two): Roger Showalter, 2,831; Jason Lahti, 2,668; Tricia Andrews, 2,570; Joseph J. DePasquale, 2,366; Beth Bivona, 946; Ian Scaduto, 901; Martha Root Dippold, 842.
• Budget: Yes, 3,431; No, 4,801.
• Proposition 2: Borrow to purchase 12 school buses and one pickup truck with plow – not to exceed $995,000: Yes, 3,274; No, 4,723.
Candidates (elect two): Paul Kunkel (i) 244, Robert Polino (i) 254.
Budget: Pass, 209; Fail, 114.
• Candidates (Elect three): Patrick Law, 583; Nancy Fumerelle (i) 537; John Spencer (i) 498; Gabrielle Miller, 485; Nicole Simon, 237.
• Budget: Yes, 593; No, 340.
• Proposition Two: Use $460,851 from a reserve fund to purchase two large school buses, four 28-seat vans and a plow truck for the Buildings and Grounds Department: Yes, 689, No 243.
• Candidates (elect two): Terri Ohlweiler, 820; Judith A. Malys, 674; Clark Martens, 402; .
• Budget: Yes, 782; No, 306.
• Candidates (elect two): Paul R. Shephard, 740; Patricia M. Krouse, 718; Kristen D. Pinker (i), 429; Steven P. Cerne (i), 422.
• Budget: Yes, 738; No, 437.
• Proposition 2: Spend up to $32,000 from the district’s repair reserve fund to purchase and install a new catalytic converter for the district’s co-generation plant: Yes, 933; No, 221.
• Candidates: *No board race this year.
• Budget: Yes, 975; No, 558.
• Proposition 2: Purchase $863,739 for a total of eight buses: Yes, 935; No, 595.
Candidates (elect three): Lisa Pyc, 867; Donna Tomkins (i), 838; Paul Krull (i), 815.
Budget: Yes, 741; No, 463.
Proposition 2: Purchase of school buses and other vehicles for an amount not to exceed $709,860: Yes, 720; No, 477.
• Candidates (elect three): Laura Heeter, 1,905; David Yoviene, 1,877; Catherine Schrauth Forcucci, 1,543; Joan Calkins (i), 1,471; Sheila Ruhland, 1,141; John R. Callahan, 634; Gary R. Klumpp, 372.
• Budget: Yes, 1,820; No, 1,421.
• Candidates (elect two): Brian Jones, 697; Jenelle Nadler, 638; Paul Rowe, 413.
• Budget: Yes, 625; No, 365.
• Proposition 2: Purchase of one 66-passenger bus, one 34-passenger van, and one 10- passenger van for a total cost of $198,000: Yes, 641; No, 343.
• Proposition 3: Transfer of up to $150,000 from the unrestricted fund balance to the district’s Repair Reserve Fund: Yes, 662; No, 319.
• Candidates (Elect two): Sharon Szeglowski, 1,212; Daniel T. Behlmaier; 1,152.
• Budget: Yes, 1,198; No, 624.
• Proposition 2: Purchase three (62-passenger) buses and two vans at a maximum cost of $400,000: Yes, 1,188; No, 623.
• Proposition 3: Expend $60,000 from the district’s Capital Reserve Fund known as the Technology Reserve Fund: Yes, 1,314; No, 493.
Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda
• Candidates (elect two): Todd Potter, Jr., 1,768; Bob Dana (i), 1,526, Stephen Hart, 1,236; Richard Harned, 1,503.
• Budget: Yes, 2,194; No, 1,047.
• Proposition 2: Purchase up to two diesel 65-passenger school buses; four gasoline 30-passenger school buses; and one gasoline wheelchair bus, at a total cost not to exceed $525,046: Yes, 1,974; No, 1,252.
• Candidates (elect two): Jennifer R. Grzybowski, 1,068; Nicholas Sobaszek, 960; Ronald S. Miller (i), 915; Richard P. Zybert, 873.
• Budget: Yes, 1,167; No, 662.
• Candidates (elect three): William J. Connors Jr., 682; Jennifer S. Farrell, 680; Cynthia Latimore (i), 675.
• Budget: Yes, 609; No, 320.
• Proposition 2: Purchase of three full-size, 71-passenger school buses for a total cost of $340,639: Yes, 523; No, 407.
• Candidates (elect two): Kenneth E. Graber (i), 1,777; William J. Gallagher, 1,724; Julie Gies Kaska; 1,335.
• Budget: Yes, 1,774; No, 1,228.
• Proposition 2: Spending $906,107 from the bus reserve fund to buy eight, 65-passenger replacement buses, with no tax impact: Yes, 2,060; No, 934.
• Candidates (elect one): Julianne Renczkowski, 400.
• Budget: Yes, 315; No, 169.
• Candidates (elect one): Tammy Winter, 179.
• Budget: Yes, 134; No, 81.
• Proposition 2: Purchase of one bus and one vehicle at a cost not to exceed $220,000: Yes, 149; No, 65.
• Candidates (elect three): Natalie A. Schaffer, (i), 1,365; Anthony Agnello, 1,233; Donna M. Omar (i), 983; Christine Gray Tinnesz, 899; Christopher T. Shively, 808; Dwight D. Mateer, 730.
• Budget: Yes, 1,560; No, 844.
• Proposition 2: Spend up to $700,000 to buy four buses, three vans and one wheelchair van: Yes, 1,645; No, 746.
• Candidates (elect one): Allison Duwe, 707; William Bursee, 283.
• Budget: Yes, 718; No, 292.
• Proposition 2: Purchase of four 66-passenger buses, two 16-passenger buses, and one 24-passenger bus with wheelchair lift at a maximum aggregate cost of $577,127: Yes, 672; No, 327.
• Candidate (elect one): Scott M. Johnson (i), 695.
• Budget: Yes, 591; No, 260.
• Proposition 2: Purchase four, 65-passenger school buses at a cost of $442,000: Yes, 546; No, 297.
City of Tonawanda
• Candidates (elect three): Danielle Opalinski (i), 784; Fred Busch, 784; Geraldine Angelo, 655; Elizabeth Olka, 340.
• Budget: Yes, 604; No, 422.
• Proposition 2: Approve the sale of Central School to David Capretto for $220,000: Yes, 722; No, 311.
• Candidates (elect three): Frank Calieri, 1,364; Kate Newton, 1,250; Carol Jarczyk (i), 1,180. Julie Goodwin, 742; Timothy Elling, 916; John C. Oshei 715, Karl Spencer 459.
• Budget: Yes, 1,941; No, 858.
• Candidates (elect three): Carrie Kahn (i), 2,473; Anthony J. Lafornara III, 2,053; Mohan Devgun (i), 1,860; Michael Kane, 1,267; Thomas J. Navarro Jr., 1,420; Peter U. Bergmann (i), 1,464;
• Budget: Yes, 2,764; No, 1,352.
• Proposition 2: Spend up to $920,000 from the transportation capital reserve funds to lease or purchase replacements for eight buses: Yes, 2,912; No, 1,142.
• Candidates (elect two): Mary Jo Clemens-Harris; William Smith (i). Final vote tally not available.
• Budget: Yes, 298; No, 95.
• Proposition 2: Proposal to convert Barker Free Library into a school district library with a $75,000 budget: Yes, 276; No, 128.
• Proposition 3: Candidates for Library Board (elect seven): Roy Anderson, James Trinder, Pamela Atwater, Terrence Upton, Henry Charache, Marilyn Zaciewski and Seanna Corwin-Bradley.
• Candidates (elect three): Jodee L. Riordan, 1,297; Anna Boulay Wright, 1,301; Betty VanDenBosch Warrick, 1,239.
• Budget: Yes, 939; No, 1,153.
• Proposition 2: Authorize a $26 million capital improvement project for interior and exterior reconstruction and renovation work for code and safety measures and upgrades throughout the district, as well as a number of enhancements and upgrades including the pool and locker room and air conditioning for the computer labs: Yes, 1,167; No, 923.
• Budget: Yes, 1,158; No, 596.
• Candidates (Elect three): Marietta Schrader, 868; Todd McNall, 864; Diane Phelps, 853; Edward Sandell, 832; Jon Williams, 700; Randall Parker, 551.
• Proposition 2: Authorize a $22.2 million capital project package including improvements to the kitchens of four elementary schools, and added security cameras and upgraded Internet connections and fiber optic cable at all schools: Yes, 1,097; No, 606.
• Candidates (elect three): James Schmitt, 675; Donna Lakes, 666; Michele Malone, 538; Joseph Flagler, 520; Margaux Lingle, 504.
• Budget: Yes, 646; No, 416.
• Candidates (elect two): Anthony F. Paretto, 1,076; Ronald J. Barstys, 957; Kevin Dobbs (i), 879; Don J. King (i), 716; Herbert L. Lewis, 481; Michael S. Gawel, 343;
• Budget: Yes, 1,396; No, 975.
• Candidates (elect two): Lori Pittman, 1,876; Amy Deull, 1,807; Lorna Tilley-Peltier, 1,357.
• Budget: Yes, 1,598; No, 1,601.
• Proposition 2: Allow a representative from the high school senior class to sit on the School Board as a member who would not have voting rights or be allowed to attend executive sessions: Yes, 1,855; No, 1,107.
• Candidates (elect four): Michael D. Zimmerman, 598; Dennis P. Toth, 569; Kevin P. Duffy, 508; Jeffrey D. Duncan, 440; Susan M. Brooks, 419; Sherri Weber, 361; Andrea L. Wick, 314; Eugene E. Stanwich, 186.
• Budget: Yes, 622; No, 332.
• Candidates (elect two): Mark Randall, 654; Amy Phillips, 647; Timothy Kropp (i), 637.
• Budget: Yes, 414; No, 698.
News Staff Reporters Barbara O’Brien, Joseph Popiolkowski Thomas Prohaska, Charlie Specht, Thomas Prohaska, Nancy Fischer and Aaron Besecker contributed to this report.