An attempt to exceed a cap on school taxes in Lewiston-Porter failed Tuesday, while voters in Wilson and Niagara Wheatfield also defeated spending plans that would have increased taxes.
Early election results showed more than half of the school budgets in Erie and Niagara counties gained voter approval, including the first school tax increase in Niagara Falls in two decades.
But in Lewiston-Porter, where the 23 job cuts were not enough to make up for lost revenue, voters thought a 5.52 percent increase in tax revenue was just too much. The proposed tax hike would have exceeded the state’s limit on tax increases in the district for the 2013-14 school year.
“I think the state should pick up the slack,” said Dick Marino, a Lewiston resident and one of a number of retirees who said he did not support the tax increase. “I don’t support a budget like that.”
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 a steep increase in teacher pension costs and state aid that remains lower than three years ago.
Despite those tax increases, voters in 20 districts approved school spending plans, according to early results.
In Niagara Falls, where the district has used layoffs and other budget cuts to keep taxes flat for two decades, voters approved a budget that would increase taxes by 3 percent.
“To me, that’s not large, compared to what it could be,” said Mary Ruth Davis, a Niagara Falls resident.
But residents in the Falls also voted out two longtime incumbents, Kevin Dobbs and Don J. King.
School administrators in Niagara Wheatfield struggled to draw up a budget within the district’s 5.91 percent tax cap this year. The strategy appeared to have failed. The Niagara Wheatfield budget was defeated by three votes.
After briefly considering making changes to the district’s kindergarten program, school board members in Niagara Wheatfield settled on a budget proposal that cut six teaching positions. But school board members had said more programs would go if they had to pare down the budget to eliminate a tax increase.
School districts where budget proposals were defeated Tuesday can present the same budget or a revised version to voters in June. If the second vote fails, they must adopt a contingency budget that does not raise the amount of taxes collected.
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.
“I doubt very much they’ll want to put the contingency out there at this point, because the contingency would mean $1.7 million more cuts,” Roser said before the budget vote. “And that would just be, wow. That would be unbelievable.”
A steady stream of residents came in to vote at the Lewiston-Porter School District on Tuesday afternoon, with strong opinions both for and against the $40 million budget.
“I have no difficulties supporting public education, that’s what makes democracy flow,” said Paul Dominick, of Youngstown, a retired college professor.
Many voters who opposed school budgets were focused on taxes, while others expressed concern about the types of programs that would be cut if school budgets failed.
Barbara Smyton, a retired elementary school teacher from Youngstown, was among those who supported the budget in Lewiston-Porter despite the fact it exceeded the district’s tax cap.
“Whatever the children need,” Smyton said. “The kids are the future of America. We need to be there for them. I can understand if you are on a very fixed income it is hard to see these taxes be raised, but here we are fortunate and can afford this.”
Abby Mitchell of Youngstown, a mother with children who will soon be attending school in Lewiston-Porter, gave the district’s budget a thumbs down.
“Too high,” Mitchell said. “They need to cut back like everybody else.” Niagara County school district election results:
• 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 Charlie Specht, Thomas Prohaska, Nancy Fischer and Aaron Besecker contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org