EDITORIAL: Today’s school votes vitally important for children, community, taxes

Niskayuna residents head into the high school to vote on the school budget on June 18, 2013.
Niskayuna residents head into the high school to vote on the school budget on June 18, 2013.

Expanding access to the polls only matters if voters actually bother to take advantage of it.

And there’s no more important time to vote than during the annual school elections, which take place today across the state.

This is where your vote makes a difference. It makes a difference in our property taxes. It makes a difference in the lives of our children. It makes a difference in virtually all aspects of our lives and in the future of our communities.

Who we elect to school boards and whether we approve or disapprove of annual district budgets are two of the most important decisions voters can make.

School budgets typically make up about 60% of your local property tax bill, and school budgets are the only government budgets on which New Yorkers have a direct say.

Yet traditionally, turnout for school elections is less than 4%. Low turnout means a small percentage of people make the decisions for those who don’t vote.

While it’s true much of local school budgets are mandated expenses and contractual obligations, there is flexibility that directly affects the taxes we all pay. The budget vote is an opportunity to send a message to your local school board about how much you believe in its priorities and how much you’re willing to pay to support them.

In addition, you’ve got the opportunity to elect the people who make the decisions on spending and policy, on hiring top administrators like superintendents, and who help determine everything from what non-core subjects to offer to how much aid to allocate to specific needs, to whether students learn from home or in person.

In the past year, the covid epidemic upended traditional school practices and forced districts to reconsider their priorities. So candidates for school board will have a greater impact in how districts operate and spend taxpayer money in the future than they did in the past.

Virtually all school districts benefited financially from the covid crisis after a federal injection of aid allowed New York to increase state aid across the board.

While that came as welcome news to most districts, it also invites more spending.

New York spends more than $24,000 to educate each student in the state, the highest in the country and far above the national average of $15,900.

Take responsibility for the future by participating in the school vote.

Before you cast your ballot, go to your school district website for budget information and for information about the candidates for school board.

Learn what you can to make an educated choice.

It’s vitally important to your community, your children and your personal finances that you do.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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