When is the best time to hold a vote where you only want strong supporters to show up?
How about during a time of year when few people are used to voting, when there’s a high likelihood of inclement weather like a snowstorm that might discourage some voters from turning out, and when a lot of older property owners who might otherwise vote against it are living elsewhere for the winter?
So …. sometime in February?
That’s when Niskayuna school board residents might be faced with a special election to decide on phase one of a three-phase capital project that could cost up to $80 million. The project could include renovations to Van Antwerp and Iroquois middle schools, relocating district offices and potential upgrades or replacement of some of the district’s athletic fields.
No estimate of a potential tax impact was given at the most recent meeting. But if the district can pay off old debt, it might be able to add the new debt without raising property taxes. Still, district residents would still pay for it. More details about the project and the potential February referendum are expected to be revealed at the district’s Dec. 15 meeting.
But while the district might be under some time pressure due to the need for the work and due to the current availability of low interest rates, officials shouldn’t put such a major project before voters during the dead of winter and at a time when many residents ‘snowbird’ in warm-weather states.
Even if the board was able to offer absentee voting in addition to in-person voting, it’s still unfair to ask absent residents or older residents to vote on such a project at an off-election time, and particularly that time of year.
School budget votes and school board elections are traditionally held in May. Why not hold off on the capital vote until then and hold it on the same day?
It would be fairer to all district residents because most property owners are used to voting in May; it doesn’t involve the inconvenience of going to the polls for a separate special election; May is a time when bad weather is unlikely to deter voters; and it’s a time when many snowbirds have returned to the district so they can vote in person.
Something this important, this expensive and this long-term should involve the most voters possible – not the fewest.