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School budget votes mixed, tough times not over

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Voters across New York headed to the polls yesterday to cast their ballots on some pretty tough school budget proposals.

After lawmakers cut over a billion dollars from statewide education aid, schools in every district were left figuring out where to cut and whether to ask voters for more money. And next year, schools may face a state-mandated cap on a vital revenue source: local property taxes.

Budgets were shot down yesterday for Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga, Northville and Lake George central schools. In St. Lawrence County, Edwards-Knox, Massena, and St. Lawrence Central budgets went down. In others, the margins were razor thin. Martha Foley has more.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Tensions over school budgets are likely to grow in parts of the North Country, after voters in a half-dozen communities voted down their districts’ spending plans yesterday.

The vast majority of budgets were approved, though often by razor-thin margins.

In the Adirondacks, Lake George, Schroon Lake, and Ticonderoga budgets were rejected.

Voters also shot down a spending plan in Northville, in the southern Adirondacks, that would have meant a 21% tax increase – one of the largest proposed increases in New York state.

That budget was rejected by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

Ticonderoga Superintendent John McDonald Jr. told the Plattsburgh Press Republican  the school board is digesting the budget vote results and didn't yet know what would come next.

Three St. Lawrence County budgets went down and two passed by slim margins.

The Edwards-Knox, Massena  and St. Lawrence Central school district budgets were rejected.

Norwood-Norfolk’s budget passing by two votes, Colton-Pierrepont Central by four.

In Ogdensburg, the budget was approved, but a proposition for a special tax to benefit the city’s Public Library was voted down.

The Watertown Daily Times reports voters approved new budgets for all school districts in Jefferson and Lewis counties.

Districts in the region have already laid off hundreds of teachers and other staff over the last two years in an effort to trim budgets and ease concerns over property taxes. Schools are also facing the possibility of a 2% property tax cap now being considered by the legislature.

An upstate business group lobbying for Governor Cuomo’s property tax cap says any exemptions or sunset provisions are unacceptable.

Brian Sampson, with Unshackle Upstate, says he met with around 35 Assembly Democrats to urge them to approve the cap, with no changes.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he’ll introduce a bill soon that will include exemptions- possibly for pensions or health care costs. There’s also talk of a temporary tax cap that would expire in a few years. 

Sampson says those revisions would defeat the purpose of the cap, "What you're saying is we're just going to kind of push this along, and kick this can down the road."

Sampson says if the choice is between a property tax cap with exemptions or nothing, then he’d prefer there be no cap at all.    



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