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Want to make a difference? Vote today

Want to make a difference? Vote today

School elections give citizens a genuine opportunity to effect change

To all you people who are constantly complaining about the state of our country and clamoring over the need to shake up the status quo, you've got the chance to make a big impact today. And you don't need Donald, Bernie or Hillary to do it.

Voters in all area school districts today can go to the polls and vote on school budgets and the school board members who administer those budgets.

If you really want to make a difference and not just bloviate about how much the country has gone to hell in a hand-basket, then show up today and make your voice heard.

This is serious grass-roots, backyard, hands-on democracy in action.

First off, school budgets make up a significant portion of your property tax bill. According to the state Department of Taxation and Finance, school budgets make up about 62 percent of all property taxes, on average, for districts outside New York City. The other 38 percent of your bill is a combination of town, village, city, county and special district taxes.

And unlike any of those other taxes, New Yorkers get to vote directly on the budget that determines the school tax bill. If you don't like how the school board is allocating that money, you can vote no and force them to come up with another plan. If you like what they've come up with, you can vote to ensure the budget is passed.

Some will argue that the state, through educational policy and aid allocations, really controls what schools do, so you as a citizen actually don't have a direct impact.

But while the overall curriculum and testing is established by the state, local school boards do have significant flexibility in what educational and sports programs they each offer, the size and quality of the teaching staff and administration, how much all those people get paid, and the quality of the facilities. So don't think your vote is a waste of time. It's clearly not.

Most importantly, these budgets and the board members you vote on today go a long way in determining the type of education our children receive, which in turn is reflected in what kind of adults our children become.

And ironically, because voter turnout in school elections is often far less than the already pathetically low level of non-school elections, a single voter can make a significant difference in the outcome. And when you consider that districts must get 60 percent of the vote to override the tax cap or to surpass the district's debt limit, your vote carries even more weight.

There's plenty of information about your school budget and the candidates readily available, even for a quick review today.

Chances are you got a flyer in the mail that you still might have around. Read it. Your district likely posted the ballot information on its website, as well as information about polling places and voting times. And The Gazette has reported on many of the region's school budgets and candidates. Just search our website for the articles.

You say you want to make a difference?

Then you can start today by taking a few minutes to learn about your local school election and by voting in it.

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