New York State annually reserves the third Tuesday of May for voters to cast their ballots on local school district budgets and board of education seats. It’s an important opportunity for the community to participate in
shaping local education policy, and we urge all eligible voters to take a few minutes and do so on May 17.
We urge readers to visit the website of their local school district — each has a good description and analysis of the budgets up for the May 17 vote along with the details of when and where the vote will take place.
In addition, we urge voters to support school budgets as proposed in each of the county’s local school districts. These aren’t spendthrift plans — in each case, district leaders navigate the rough seas of local demands and state mandates with an eye toward minimizing the school taxes property owners must pay. The programs these budgets support are essential to every student’s education — academic, athletic, artistic, vocational — each is a vital part of the comprehensive tool boxes that today’s world demands. The teachers and staff whom these budgets support are essential, too, of course — called out correctly as among the heroes of the pandemic and beyond, and deserving of our unified support.
Districts in the county also have candidates standing for election to their respective boards of education. We remind voters that these are volunteer positions — people who, in many cases, are parents themselves who want for all the students in the district what they want for their own children: a quality education, a supportive and supporting learning atmosphere, and opportunity to grow. We’ve thought often that board of education service is a thankless task, with volunteer members opening themselves to all manner of harsh criticism from an increasingly polarized community. We salute those board members and candidates who offer their expertise, opinion, and guidance to the professionals who carry out the complex and complicated task of running school districts large and small.
School budget votes present a bit of a Catch-22, though: important as it is for us to have the opportunity to have a say in how our tax dollars are spent, the May 17 vote presents the sole opportunity given to the electorate to participate directly in a public budget vote. The federal budget, of course — that’s up to Congress, and who knows what is in that thing or if it even exists at all. The state budget — that one is left to the state Legislature and the Governor and, as we find year after year, even most state lawmakers don’t know what they’re voting on until they’re force-fed something at the last minute. In New York’s trickle-down theory of government, local governments are left to pick up the pieces and cobble together county, city, town, and village budgets based in large part on calculations that come from the aforementioned federal and state spending plans.
Yes, we have the chance to opine on these spending plans, albeit indirectly, by electing representatives who presumably vote in our best interests. This isn’t always the case, and, as we’ve seen in the past, voters can occasionally vent their collective frustration with federal, state, and local budget shenanigans by voting ‘no’ on the one budget in which they have a direct say: the local school districts.
It’s not necessarily a fair system, and it’s important that we recognize school budgets in Otsego County for what they are — careful spending plans attuned to the needs of the students, the teachers, and the taxpayers. We urge you to vote ‘yes’ on May 17.