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School board voter turnout 'slower than slow'

Posted by keshiaclukey on May 22, 2013 at 11:10 AM

School board voter turnout 'slower than slow'

BY KESHIA CLUKEY

[email protected]

See original at uticaod.com.

Jay McFarland and other volunteers sat in the heat Tuesday waiting for voters.

“It’s slower than slow,” said McFarland, a poll inspector at Shepard Place in Utica.

At 6 p.m., with three hours until the polls closed, the site had just 90 voters.

“If they raised their taxes a little bit more, they might have shown up,” McFarland said, referring to the Utica City School District’s proposed 2 percent tax-levy increase.

Residents around the state hit the polls Tuesday to vote on their 2013-14 school budgets and Board of Education seats.

But local votes, especially those for school districts, don’t get the same turnout as state and national votes.

“It all depends on the year,” said Rose Marie Grimaldi, Oneida County Republican commissioner. “It really depends on the offices that are up and who is on the ballot.”

Grimaldi said local elections don’t have as big a turnout as the presidential elections.

Despite the turnout, the majority of the school budgets are expected to be approved, similar to last year, said Michael Borges, executive director of the New York State Association of School Business Officials.

About 99 percent of the budgets for the 2012-13 school year were approved in either the May vote or June revote, and only two districts had to use their contingency plans, Borges said.

(Final results from Tuesday continued to come in after deadline. For the full list, visit uticaod.com.)

Typically, about 10 to 14 percent of registered voters come out for the school budget and board elections, said David Albert, director of communications and research for the New York State School Boards Association.

Oneida County had 134,589 registered voters as of April 1 and Herkimer County had 41,103 as of June 2012, according to the Boards of Elections. So, an estimated 18,000 to 25,000 voters were expected to turn out Tuesday in both counties combined.

But those who do vote, generally support the schools, Albert said.

Pamela Darman, 59, of New Hartford, voted in favor of the New Hartford Central School District budget.

“I always vote, especially for the school budget. If there’s one tax that I want to pay it’s the school tax,” she said. “One vote can make a difference in a school vote.”

New Hartford voters streamed into the high school around 5 p.m., but the Rome district was a different story.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, only 218 out of 3,585 registered voters in the Sixth Ward had cast their ballots at Fort Stanwix School.

 

“We got a long way to go,” said election inspector Mae Smith, adding that the turnout was typical of a school board election.

“Unless there’s some major issue or proposition that they’re voting on, then it would be more,” she said.

The low turnout could be for a number of reasons.

For Jaqueline Cole, supporting the school district was reason enough to go straight to the polling place after work. Cole, who owns Cole Auto Repair Shop, still donned her work uniform and cap as she voted.

“The budget’s important, so the kids keep learning,” she said. “If you don’t pass a budget, well, it costs more money.”

Major propositions or high tax increases can bring more voters out, as can highly contested school board race, which was the case in New York Mills Union Free District.

Tuesday was district resident Ashley Taylor’s first school vote.

“I care what’s going to happen to the school and who’s going to make decisions,” said the 19-year-old New Hartford resident.

Taylor knew all of the four candidates competing for three seats.

“I just had to think about the things they support and what I support and what lines up best for the school,” she said.

Contributing: Ned Campbell, O-D

 

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