Perhaps one of the most important election seasons is upon us, school budget and school board elections. At no other level of government do we have this much say in how our tax dollars are spent.
Millions of people vote for the president, and millions vote for our state representatives. But how many people actually come out to vote for the school budget? Hundreds.
Yet, the school budget makes up more than half of the annual tax bill. According to the Office of Comptroller, this portion of the bill is greater than the county, town, village and city portions.
Reasons given for this were numerous. Schools use more public resources, demands on public education are growing. Rural districts do not have as broad a tax base as other districts do, where businesses would pay a good portion of the taxes, so it falls on residents.
So while the responsibility of funding the school lies in part with the residents, so does the responsibility of providing input on the annual budget. Budget meetings and workshops are held to provide a forum where resident taxpayers can ask questions or provide input. Board meetings are held to update the public on how budget talks are going and to seek information from residents on how they feel about budget considerations.
And while many of the meetings are attended by residents, and hundreds do come out and vote on the budget, the majority of residents do not vote and even more do not attend the meetings.
Years ago the state mandated that all school budget votes be held on the same day annually. This was done to bring uniformity to the votes, so that people would know when to vote and hopefully there would be more voters, and there are.
The question is, how many people truly know who their board candidates are and what positions they hold? How many know what the total budget is going to be if approved? How many have an idea of how it is going to affect them yearly?
Who knows what programs are being cut and which are being added? Who has been hired and who is retiring?
These are just some questions that voters should have the answers to before they pull any lever. And they should also know which board members supported which cuts and which additions.
Anyone who does not vote on the budget or for board candidates, whether the candidates are at the school level, or town or village level, has no right to complain about escalating taxes or cuts or additions made to the budget.
If you do vote, keep up the good work, but donít stop there. Attend meetings, provide input. Let your officials know your needs and desires. And spread the word.
You do have a say in local government, so speak up and make the effort to get out and vote.