Chenango voters approve all school budgets

CHENANGO COUNTY – If there’s any frustration with the weakening economy, it doesn’t appear voters took out their frustrations at the polls Tuesday.

Spiked by record-high fuel prices and increased health care costs, all nine county school district budgets for 2008-09 were approved by relatively comfortable margins.

Even though tax levy increases varied greatly district-by-district – from zero in Greene to 6.5 percent in Oxford – the final tallies in each reflected a common theme: It’s not time to cut education.

Oxford Academy and Central Schools’ budget, offering the highest tax levy increase of any district in the county at 6.5 percent, passed 247 to 171.

Superintendent Randall Squier said had a “guarded optimism” that the budget would pass, and that the results are a vote of trust from the community – during tough economic times – that the district now has to live up to.

“We’re thankful the community came out and voted and supported the budget,” said Squier. “We’re glad we can continue the programs and initiatives we’ve started.”

Programs included in the public’s vote of confidence include advanced college level credits in the high school and small class size in the primary school, where reading and English scores have improved 13 percent in three years.

“A ‘yes’ vote from the community is a vote of trust,” said Squier, adding that there wasn’t much public disdain for the budget and its 6.5 percent tax increase that he heard, but rather just a lot of questions. “We take that trust seriously. It’s a vote of confidence, and hopefully we can give back to the community what they’ve given to us, which is a quality budget with quality programs.”

The Oxford bus proposition, capital program and library budget also passed.

Candidates Eugene Rood and Mary Branham filled two open school board seats with 324 and 332 votes, respectively.

Here’s the results from the rest of the county (in some of the following districts, the voting results listed are projections and will not be finalized until ballots are canvassed by school boards throughout the county):

• Afton

Voters approved the 2008-09 budget 217 yes, 127 no.

The $14,108,903 spending plan will result in a 3.84 percent tax levy increase, according to district officials. Overall, it’s a $628,813, or 4.66 percent increase over the 2007-08 budget.

A proposition to purchase a 27 passenger seat bus with wheelchair capability at an amount not to exceed $96,000 was also approved, 217 yes, 119 no. State transportation aid will reimburse the school for 90 percent of the cost.

In a write-in, John Masse was re-elected to the only open seat on the school board.

• Bainbridge-Guilford

Bainbridge-Guilford’s 2008-09 budget passed by a margin of 366 to 161.

Able to add teaching positions and build on existing educational programs – while still keeping the tax levy increase at 1.9 percent – Superintendent Karl Brown was pleased Tuesday night with the public’s response to the $16,501,488 spending plan.

“I think that in tough times like this, with the economy the way it is, we were very pleased the voters were in support with this kind of margin,” said Brown.

Two school board seats were filled by incumbent Jeanne Shields, who received 394 votes, and Howard Lockhart, who received 361.

A proposition to purchase a bus was also approved 380 to 143, as was a repair reserve account; 371 to 150.

• Greene

With no scheduled tax levy increase, Greene’s $22,045,124 budget was approved by an overwhelming margin Tuesday; 356 to 131. School officials were not surprised.

“We expected it would be quite overwhelming,” School Business Manager Mark Rubitski said. “We had a zero percent tax increase. That speaks for itself.”

The Moore Memorial Library budget also passed – 315 to 172.

On the school board, William Cline and Timothy Crumb were voted into the two open seats with 338 and 188 votes, respectively.

• Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton

The budget, totaling $7,995,068 with a tax levy increase of 1.9 percent, passed 123 to 31.

Three incumbents were running to maintain their positions on the school board; Jerry Theis, Lisa Carkuff and Harold “Manny” Button.

• Norwich

Voters approved the $37,537,314 budget with a tax levy increase of 1.45 percent 593 yes, 373 no. Another proposition was approved entitling the district to set up a capital reserve fund that is designed to aid building projects, bus purchases or other expenditures in coming years.

The Guernsey Library budget totaling $1,042,621 was approved and Kathy Darrah was re-elected onto the library board of trustees for a five-year term and Laurie Doliver was elected to fill a two-year term.

From the seven candidates running for Norwich school board positions, incumbents Priscilla Johnson earned 552 votes and Tim Brown who received 599 votes were elected to fill three-year terms and newcomers Sally Chirlin with 535 votes and Joe Stagliano with 489 votes were elected to fill one-year terms.

• Otselic Valley

Otselic Valley voters approved the $8,837,381 budget with 157 residents saying yes and 74 saying no. In addition to approving the budget, that carries a tax levy increase of 3.1 percent, voters approved a proposition presented for purchasing up to three new buses with a maximum spending limit of $200,000 and the creation of a capital reserve account.

Until Tuesday, the last two budgets were not passed by voters.

Terri Hammond won the open seat on the school board with 133 votes.

• Sherburne-Earlville

District residents approved the school budget totaling $26,563,214 with a 3.95 percent tax levy increase, 392 to 116. Elected onto the school board were Steve Harris, John Brown and Sue Osborne.

• Unadilla Valley

The budget, totaling $19,826,092 with a 4.4 percent tax levy increase, was approved by district voters 239 said yes while 115 voted no. In addition, two other propositions were approved; one to aid funding for the New Berlin library and one for the purchase of a new 66-passenger bus, a new 30 passenger bus, a new 30-passenger wheelchair bus and one new mini-van at a cost not to exceed $233,000.

Elected to the board of education was Victoria Gregory earning 293 votes, John Elliott earning 297 votes and Bill Lyons earning 277 votes.

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