EDITORIAL: School budget revotes are unfair

School districts should respect the will of the voters the first time around.
Juliana Blair casts her ballot during the Greater Johnstown School District budget vote on Tuesday at Johnstown High School.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Juliana Blair casts her ballot during the Greater Johnstown School District budget vote on Tuesday at Johnstown High School.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

If President Trump loses in November, he can’t call for a whole new election, no matter how much he wants to.

That’s because in America, you get one shot at an election, and the outcome is the outcome, however it goes.

But in New York, where taxpayers have an opportunity to vote on school spending plans, the outcome of the annual budget vote isn’t necessarily the final word.

State Education Law allows school districts to put the same budget up for a revote if it fails the first time around. 

Not only does the school district not have to respect the outcome of a budget defeat, it doesn’t have to lift a finger to make any changes to the plan to account for the reasons why voters rejected the original budget in the first place.

By negating the outcome of the first budget defeat, school districts make the votes of all those who voted against the budget absolutely meaningless.

In the Johnstown school district on Wednesday, where the defeated budget was put up a second time, 2,113 votes were tallied. During the original vote in June, 2,663 residents voted. That means 550 more voters turned out for the original vote than the revote.

Yet it’s the results of the revote, during which the budget was approved, that will stand.

Does that seem fair to you? Does it seem fair to the people who voted against the budget the first time?

Well, you could say, if budget opponents really felt that strongly, they should have come out to vote the second time. But couldn’t you say the same thing about the people who support the budget but didn’t turn out to vote the first time?

Why do pro-budget voters get a second opportunity to vote for the budget, while the wishes of anti-budget voters can be summarily dismissed?

School taxes make up about  60% of local property tax bills. So we’re not talking about a trivial matter. 

State lawmakers need to treat school budget elections the same as they  do all other elections in this country — respect the outcome – by eliminating the ability of districts to putting the defeated budget up for a revote.

If school districts want to take a second crack at a budget vote to avoid going to a contingency budget, they should be required to alter the budget in some way, perhaps by cutting spending or the tax impact by a small percentage. 

That way, at least, the wishes of voters who opposed the spending plan originally are respected.

If you think the current system of allowing revotes on school budgets is fair, take any election in which you voted and think how you’d feel if your candidate won and they threw out the results and did it all over again.

Still think it’s fair?
 

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