The oft-used phrase from ABC Sports about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat so applies to school budget votes.
The thrill of victory is for the vast majority of school budgets across the state that passed. NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi called the successful voting day “a resoundingly positive message about public education. New Yorkers understand that the critics are wrong and that the vast, vast majority of public schools are succeeding. They see that investing in public education and students’ futures is the right direction for our state, and they voted to support what teachers and children need to be successful.”
Extra congratulations to the seven school districts that succeeded in overriding their tax cap: Alexandria, Ardsley, Bay Shore, Irvington, Kiryas Joel, South Colonie and Tuxedo. But that means 21 other districts failed in their attempts to override.
The agony of defeat goes to Cornwall schools. They came within two votes of overriding their budget and, yes, that means 59.9 percent of voters in the community agreed with the budget but the votes of 40.1 percent counted more. NYSUT filed a lawsuit claiming the tax cap is unconstitutional in February. Thirteen other districts that got majority “yes” votes but failed to get 60 percent include East Quogue on Long Island, with a 59.2 percent “yes” vote and General Brown in the north country (only 28 votes shy), Moravia in Cayuga County had a 56.6 percent “yes” vote while Baldwin in Nassau County had 55 percent. Sachem schools in Suffolk County and North Syracuse in central New York both had a 54.2 percent yes. South Country and North Babylon in Suffolk both had 54 percent. Those districts with 53 percent were Elmira Heights in Chemung county and Manhasset in Nassau. South Seneca in the Finger Lakes got 52 percent yes, while Newcomb and Briarcliff Manor both got 51 percent.
Then there are districts like Clarence in western New York — where 58.3 percent of voters said “no” to the budget and now $2.4 million will get cut — or Niskayuna in Schenectady County, which also failed to get a majority of voters to say “yes” to the school budget. A shocker to me was Scarsdale, where the majority of voters said “no” to the budget, let alone an override.
These schools, as well as those districts where budgets failed even without trying to override their cap, have additional challenges before them. They were trying to make up for the fact their districts, like most across the state, still have less state aid overall in 2013-14 than five years ago, even as the undemocratic property tax cap cripples local control and the ability of communities to make their own decisions about how much to invest in supporting their schools.
Those districts where budgets failed have one more chance to pass a budget, on June 18, or they can skip that and just go right to a budget as long as there is no increase in the tax levy.