Most School Budget Re-Votes Pass

June 19, 2013 Updated Jun 19, 2013 at 12:53 AM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

...
June 19, 2013 Updated Jun 19, 2013 at 12:53 AM EDT


Clarence, NY (WKBW) - Deep cuts get approved, as results pour in from school budget re-votes.

Six Western New York districts were sent back to the drawing board after taxpayers turned down their first spending plan.

Wilson was the only school district to face a second "no" vote. A no-vote will send the budget back to the contingency plan that could cost the school district big bucks.

Taxpayers in Lewiston-Porter, Alden, Bemus Point, Niagara-Wheatfield and Clarence, all approved the second proposal of their districts' budgets.

In Niagara-Wheatfield, taxpayers shot down an increase of nearly six-percent last month. Now, the new budget will make cuts to sports, extra-curricular programs and middle school staffing. Kindergarten, once on the chopping block, is safe.

Meanwhile, parents and school staff in Clarence are expressing relief. The budget passed with 66-percent of the vote.

However, going into the polls, voters gave mixed reaction.

"I think that the school board should be able to do more than just cut teachers," said Ron Strozyk, who voted against the budget because of the wide-ranging cuts.

"I have three great children and a really great school district," countered Sue Merlino. "We want to support our schools."

After Clarence's first budget failed in May, the school district cut more than 50 jobs, including about 30 teaching positions. Also on the chopping block -- about half of the school district's extra-curricular activities.

"We're going to try to work our way towards getting our programs restored when it's fiscally responsible to do so," says Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks.

This new budget lowers a controversial tax increase from 9.8-percent to 3.62-percent.

Georgia Perry says she voted against the budget because she believes any tax hike is unnecessary. "Clarence is a very wealthy area," Perry says. "If they want sports, they can pay separately for themselves."

However, many say that money is a small price to pay for students.

"I'm hoping that it'll turn around and it will definitely see less of a negative effect -- because it's definitely had a negative impact on our community and schools," says Jennifer Fosdick.

More than 53-hundred residents cast their ballot in this election. More than 35-hundred voted in favor of the budget. About 18-hundred voted against it.

Passing this budget meant saving about a dozen jobs, Advanced Placement courses, sports teams and extra-curricular activities.

There are still challenges coming up with next year's budget.

Lisa Thrun, with Citizens for Sustainable Schools, was part of the group that advocated against Clarence's first budget because of the tax increase. The group later backed the budget in the re-vote, but says it will put pressure on the school district for next year.

"I think we need to roll up our sleeves right away," Thrun says, "because we have a lot of work to do and we have to find long-term solutions."

However, Superintendent Hicks says making a budget is complicated, and often comes down to aid from the state, pension increases and fiscal responsibilities.

"The community expressed they want the tax levy to stay below the tax cap. We know that, and we will attempt to do that going forward," Hicks says. "But sometimes that's difficult with the balance of opportunities for kids."

This was the second highest voter turnout for a school budget voter ever in the Clarence Central School District. The only bigger turnout -- the first budget election from just a few weeks ago. More than eight-thousand people participated in that election, leaving long lines out the doors even after polls closed.