If you're registered to vote, we strongly urge you to do so Tuesday at your local school polling place. Public school budgets and board candidates are big decisions for every community, and your input matters. To keep our democracy alive, we need to feed it, and that means voting.
We respect whatever ballot choices you make, but if you're unsure, we offer some recommendations that might at least give you food for thought.
Yes on budgets
We suggest that this year, voting no on your school budget stands little chance of achieving any direct goal. It might be a symbolic gesture of dissatisfaction with the way your school district is being run, and if that's your goal, fine. Symbolism does matter; school officials are watching these elections with bated breath, trying to read the will of the people. But don't expect a no vote to actually change your school budget much.
None of the budgets in the Tri-Lakes or Keene school districts would exceed the state tax cap; they'd all raise taxes 1 to 2 percent, which isn't much. If people vote any of them down, that school board would have another chance to present a budget to voters, and if that, too, failed to pass, they'd have to fall back on a contingency budget which, according to state policy, would probably be not much different from the one before you Tuesday.
So if your reason for voting no would be because you want taxes reduced further, they probably won't be. If you're voting no because you want your district to raise taxes more, perhaps so it doesn't cut faculty and staff so much, consider that school boards, pretty much as a rule, consider a budget rejection to be a message that their taxing too much, not too little. Your chance to push your board for fewer cuts has pretty much passed.
Yes for libraries
Voters in the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid school districts will also be asked to say yes or no to library funding: $148,464 for the Saranac Lake Free Library and $13,000 for the E.M. Cooper Memorial Public Library in Wilmington. These are great deals.
Public libraries give communities an enormous amount of bang for the buck in general, and the funds these libraries are asking us for are negligible when you consider what fabulous services they provide. Vote yes all the way.
It always amazes us when people vote no for libraries. We could understand it if libraries were wasteful, but they absolutely are not. Their staff are devoted to the people they serve, and they offer a garden of riches for very little money.
Incidentally, other public libraries in our area receive public funds as well, even if they're not up for election Tuesday. Tupper Lake's library budget, for instance, passed in a separate vote this past Tuesday, and the Keene Valley Library receives school district funding without a referendum. Others, like the Keene Public Library, rely more heavily on grants. We encourage people to patronize and support all of them.
Take veterans exemption poll
Voters Tuesday will also be asked if they think their district should give property tax exemptions to veterans, which would mean shifting some of the tax burden to non-veterans. Some municipalities already do this, and now New York is letting schools do so, too, if they choose. The decision will be up to each school board, and every one in our area is polling voters about it Tuesday, whether on the ballot or in an exit poll.
We're not ready to tell you how to vote on this issue, but please do think about the question ahead of time and take the extra moment to answer it at your polling place. Usually elected boards make their decisions without polling the community, so this is a rare opportunity to be heard. Your vote will surely affect their decision on this important question of tax distribution.
Study school board candidates
Saranac Lake is the only local district with a competitive school board election this year. Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and Keene each will see new board members, but they'll run uncontested to replace ones who have opted to step down.
In Saranac Lake, however, Lisa Paschke and Terry Tubridy are seeking re-election, and Kelly Morgan and Aurora White are challenging them. All four sound like good candidates, and we're not ready to endorse any of them, but we strongly encourage this district's voters to make sure to read the candidate profiles we published April 30. It's also good to read the letters to the editor supporting certain candidates.
Voting is a major social responsibility. Make sure you know what you're doing, and then make sure you do it.