All school budgets pass in Erie, Niagara counties

May 18, 2016

Voters went to the polls Tuesday and ended up approving all public school budgets in Erie and Niagara counties. Some districts also had school board candidates and propositions to vote on.

In Williamsville, two incumbent board members - Anthony Lafornara and Shondra Brock - were defeated. Teachers Teresa Leatherbarrow, Mary Bieger and Suzanne Van Sice, all supported by the teachers union, won new terms on the board.

Inside Kenmore East High School, Tonawanda, NY.
Credit WBFO News file photo

In Kenmore-Tonawanda, union-endorsed candidates Christine Cavarello, incumbent Christopher Pashler and Thomas Reigstad won, while incumbent Robert Dana was defeated.

In Lancaster, it appears the "Redskins" nickname will remain a thing of the past, as two board candidates that do not support the district's former mascot were victorious. The board now has a 5-2 majority in favor of keeping the mascot in retirement.

In Niagara County, five incumbents were defeated: Donna Lakes in Newfane, Colleen Osborn in North Tonawanda, Mark Randall in Wilson, Carmelette Rotella in Niagara Falls and Betty Warrick in Lewiston-Porter.

In Caneseraga and West Valley, school budgets failed.

Statewide, voters approved an overwhelming 98.5 percent of school district budgets, according to an analysis by the New York State School Boards Association. 

"Despite a near-zero tax cap, school districts managed to put together spending plans that in some cases restored educational programs and services, thanks to a large infusion of state aid," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "The question is, will the state be able to sustain that commitment going forward?" 

Initial statewide results gathered by NYSSBA indicate voters passed 655 school district budgets. The number of budgets defeated was 10. NYSSBA was still awaiting results for 11 districts. Other results analyzed by NYSSBA:

  • In the fifth year of the state's property tax cap, 640 districts proposed budgets with tax levies that were within their caps and required only a simple majority to pass. Of those districts, 99.7 percent saw their budgets pass. 
  • Thirty-six districts had budgets with tax levies that exceeded the cap and required a 60 percent "supermajority" to pass. Of those districts, 78 percent saw their budgets pass, which is substantially greater than the 61.1 percent passage rate for override attempts last year. 
  • The average budget passage rate since 1969 is 85 percent. More recently, the average passage rate for the last five years is 96 percent.
  • Schools statewide proposed an average tax levy increase of 0.7 percent for 2016-17. 
  • The average proposed spending increase for the 2016-17 school year is 2.1 percent.