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School Budgets Go Before Voters Tuesday

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – School budgets across the state will go before local voters Tuesday. Lobbying groups ranging from the State School Boards Association to New York State United Teachers are urging people to vote yes.

The State Legislature and Governor Pataki approved a record increase in school operating aid -- $1.3 billion -- and billions more in construction aid. But local school budgets are still going up. Timothy Kremer, executive director of the State School Board Association, says the average increase statewide is 6.3 percent. But here in Erie County, he says it's a little less at 4.8 percent.

Kremer says the vast majority of budgets going before district residents today will pass.

"Historically, we have had a passage rate of 82 percent," Kremer said. "Our best ever was a 93.5 percent passage rate in 2003.

Voters will also be electing school board members in their respective districts. Still, turnout will be disappointing in most districts, a fact that Kremer says he can't understand.

"When you talk about voting for school board members and school budgets -- but people don't show up for those decisions -- that's amazing to me," Kremer said.

NYSUT, the state's largest teachers union, has been running radio and television ads urging people to vote for their school district budgets.

Voting hours vary from district to district.