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May 22, 2014

In Our Opinion: Voters have spoken; Albany should listen

If local schools have been trying to send a message that they need community support, it would seem that the message has been heard. The real question is if Albany is listening. 

Local voters turned out, many in large numbers, on Tuesday to approve school budgets. Even in Walton, where a tax levy increase of 5.49 percent was proposed, the budget was approved by more than 60 percent of the voters — not exactly a razor-thin margin. 

Walton Central School Superintendent Roger Clough said Tuesday night that he was “ecstatic.” 

“We had a record turnout,” Clough said. “The community came out in support of our kids.” 

In Oneonta, the $35.3 million budget (a tax levy increase of 1.68 percent) was approved easily, with about 80 percent of voters giving it the green light. 

Oneonta Superintendent Joseph Yelich said he was grateful for the community support represented by the number of people who came out to vote.

Given all the hue and cry over school taxes in the last state budget, it’s worth reflecting on what happened here. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken the issue of property tax relief as a rallying cry. His 2011 tax cap required municipalities and school districts to get more voters to sign on to budgets that exceed a certain threshold. 

None of the local school districts exceeded the cap this year. So that may be one reason why they all passed (many of them quite easily). 

But tax cap or not, is this really anything new? The tax levy increases we saw on this year’s budgets were almost all under 3 percent. Look back over the last several years, and you’ll see that this has often been the case. Certainly there are exceptions. But by and large, our local schools have not exactly been sticking taxpayers with huge bills. 

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