School budget votes will pass in large numbers: Matt's Memo

No lines, no waiting. That's a typical school budget voting day across New York State. Just a trickling of voters decide whether school budgets pass or fail. More than 95% pass on the first go around. Even when they don't there is not much room for change should voters reject on a revote and force the implementation of the contingency plan.

Last year across all of Central New York only five school districts did not pass budgets on the first vote. North Syracuse, Moravia, South Seneca and General Brown passed on the first revote. Only voters in Remsen defeated the budget on the revote. Remsen, in Oneida County, is considered a high need district.

It is worth noting a common distinction among the four districts where the budget failed once and then passed on the revote. Each district had requested a waiver from the state mandated 2% limit on the increase of the tax levy. The waiver approval demands a 60% approval by the voters. Each district came up short. They abandoned the request for an override on the revote and it passed.

As for voter turnout, a report by the New York State Association of School Business Officials shows a decline since the property tax cap was implemented in 2012-2013. Voter turnout is down nearly 20%. The association wonders whether voters feel spending is more under control since the state imposed the cap.

This year New York State has provided an additional incentive to keep property tax rates down. A tax rebate check will get sent to voters in districts that meet the goal. It's part of an ever complicated formula where we send our income tax dollars and other fees to Albany and then the state returns them to us in some form while it tells us it is keeping taxes down.

We will keep an eye on the school budget votes Tuesday evening. At most only a handful will fail. Oswego and tiny Brookfield in Madison County are two to watch.


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