CNY School Budgets, School Boards voting only with absentee ballots mailed to voters

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) Absentee ballots are arriving in the mailboxes of every qualified voter in school districts across New York State to vote on school budgets and for board of education seats.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person voting was cancelled earlier this month by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The order also called on each school district to not only send an absentee ballot to every qualified voter but also a prepaid return envelope.

For the Liverpool Central School District, that means nearly 35,000 ballots have gone out this week, at an unanticipated cost of nearly $30,000.

Superintendent Mark Potter is worried about possible state cuts in funding after a school budget is passed in the district.

He says the district has just barely recovered from a change in state aid funding about a decade ago that cost Liverpool schools about 230 positions over about three years.

“In many cases some of those positions have been brought back, in other cases, we haven’t recovered from that. That took six years for us to be able to get straightened out. This could be that bad if not worse,” Potter tells NewsChannel 9.

Next year’s budget has the same amount of state aid as the current spending plan for Liverpool.

Potter adds that the budget has a slight increase to account for various union contracts and health costs but is down about $2-million in revenue.

Right now, there are no program changes and only 16 positions reduced by way of attrition.

“We receive just about $67-million in state aid. So if somebody were to say we’re taking 10% away that’s obviously $6.7-million. If he’s (the governor) going to take 20% away that’s a little over $13-million, that for us is, impractical,” Potter says.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said without any aid from the Federal Government he may have to go back to school districts in the coming months and cut their State Aid by as much as 20%.

It’s very concerning to Central Square School Superintendent Tom Colabufo who says 58% of his budget is made up of state aid.

That’s why he tells NewsChannel 9 even though there’s a slight increase in the tax levy voters should still approve it.

“If we know that state aid is going to be hit, we’re going to rely on, in our case that $72 for a $100,000 house increase to the tax levy to be able to get us $1.093-million, which would be substantial to help us brace for that big impact,” he says.

That money could help protect things like sports, fine arts, electives, and BOCES programs, not just in Central Square but in many districts.

“And if a district is putting up an increase to the tax levy, I want all communities not just Central Square community to know, it’s not done to be a kick in the gut to anybody, it’s done to be able to brace ourselves and give us some control when our budgets are hit,” Colabufo says.

All absentee ballots are due back to districts in New York State by June 9th.

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