A boost in state aid this year helped school districts present palatable budgets to taxpayers, and voters responded in kind tonight.
One after another, school districts across across Erie and Niagara counties not only passed the budgets but overwhelmingly gave their approval in what turned out to be a relatively ho-hum night of voting. Even the one district that went over the state-mandated tax cap – Holland – enjoyed a victory.
In the end, no school budget in either Erie or Niagara counties was voted down, although results from Iroquois and Lockport were still unclear late this evening.
Some of the more exciting moments of the night came in the school board races, which resulted in 19-year-old Davis Podkulski winning a seat on the Frontier School Board. Meanwhile, Thomas Flynn and Cameron Hall were declared winners in the contentious race for the Hamburg School Board.
Those are some of the highlights of tonight’s votes across Western New York.
Polls closed at 9 p.m. for most taxpayers across Erie and Niagara counties voting on 37 school district budgets and 83 open school board seats.
As a whole, there were no polarizing issues this year, as a boost in state aid helped many districts avoid deep cuts.
But as always localized issues created hot spots around the region.
In Hamburg, voters fed up with the dysfunction and controversy on the deeply divided School Board showed up to the polls to choose two of the six candidates running for the board. The political makeup of the board will change with the election of Hall and Flynn.
Joe Smith, who was outside the polling place at Hamburg High School today, said he we would be voting for the candidates that represented change.
“I’m voting for somebody who is not associated with it,” said Smith, referring to the drama that has plagued school politics.
Flynn won a seat with 2,050 votes, while Hall received the most at 2,163. Both campaigned on returning civility to the board. Flynn said the results show residents “understand what happens when they don’t pay attention” to elections.
“It could have a calming effect,” Flynn said of his and Hall’s election.
In an interesting twist in Lancaster, where five candidates were running for three seats, district officials said they will not release any vote tallies tonight for write-in candidate Beverly Shamblin. Instead, officials from the Erie County Board of Elections will convene at Lancaster High School at 9 a.m. Wednesday to hand-count the write-in votes.
“I’m shocked,” Shamblin told The News when asked about the developments. “I don’t understand why.”
Turnout has been generally light in School Board elections in Niagara and Erie counties, but there was a steady stream of voters at the polls today in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, which has made two big decisions so far this year.
The Ken-Ton School Board on April 1 decided to close three schools – Roosevelt and Hamilton elementary schools and Kenmore Middle School – for the 2016-17 school year to cut costs and even out class sizes. And on Monday the board announced that Dawn Mirand, superintendent of the Mount Morris school district, would take over as superintendent from Mark P. Mondanaro, who is retiring July 31.
Janet Reyes, however, said her opposition to consolidation led her to vote for candidates Jill O’Malley and Annemarie Gibson, both newcomers.
“I think people now are just accepting it because that’s the way it is,” said Reyes, whose grandson attends Roosevelt. “I know they probably can’t go back and change things, but it would be nice to have somebody in there that realizes it’s not really a good idea.”
In the end, O’Malley won a seat on the board with 1,783 votes; Gibson won with 1,488.
In Lackawanna, the tax levy is up 4 percent, which was enough to bring out Christopher Julian.
“I’m a taxpayer and I wanted to vote ‘no,’” said Julian, who was voting at the Senior Citizens Center in Lackawanna. “The contingency budget would keep the tax levy at the same rate as last year.”
But not all Lackawanna voters put up a fight, with the budget being approved.
Meanwhile, district officials in Cheektowaga-Sloan said the turnout at the polls was good.
Sue Wollen of Cheektowaga, who brought her daughter, Alicia, 6, was satisfied with the adopted $33.8 million budget.
“I thought it was fair,” Wollen said.
News Staff Reporters Janice Habuda, Joseph Popiolkowski and Karen Robinson and Suburban Correspondent Lisa A. Johnson contributed to this report.