By Mikayla Kemp, OCT
FULTON, NY – Fulton residents took to their local polling places Tuesday to cast their votes for the 2015-2016 school elections.
The proposed budget for the coming school year was approved with 368 votes in favor and 262 votes against.
Voters approved the $68.6 million 2015-2016 school district budget, a $1.3 million increase from the current year’s budget.
The budget brings forth a 1.75% tax levy increase as well, resulting in an increase of $33.53 in annual school taxes for a home assessed at $100,000.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the budget,” said Superintendent of Fulton Schools, Bill Lynch. “I realize these are challenging financial times and recognize that any increase in taxes can be challenging for taxpayers. We try to keep the increases as low as possible while still being able to balance providing a quality education for our kids.”
There were two seats available on the Fulton Board of Education. Incumbents Daniel Pawlewicz and Timothy Crandell sought re-election. They ran unopposed.
Voters returned the incumbents to their seats on the board of education. Crandell received 396 votes while Pawelewicz, current vice president of the board, received 391 votes.
Also receiving votes were write-in candidates: Robbin Griffin, Rhonda Campolieta and Garry Stanard. They each received one vote.
The votes are unofficial until later finalized.
“It’s great to have both of them back,” said Lynch in regards to Pawlewicz’s and Crandell’s re-election. “They are both committed to our kids, programs and schools as a whole.”
Pawlewicz, a member of the Fulton Board of Education for nine out of the last ten years, who is also a taxpayer in the city of Fulton, found the budget to be fair but feels the need to push for more state aid.
“We really need to be pushing our government for more state aid for our schools. We are a high-need, low-wealth district and we can’t keep relying on our taxpayers,” said Pawlewicz.
“The voter turnout was extremely low this year,” Pawlewicz added. “There’s not a lot of controversy to draw in voters. Board elections were uncontested, the budget increases were fair and I guess with no controversial dilemmas people don’t see much reason to vote. It’s a disappointing turnout but the important part is that the budget passed. That’s what’s most important and we are extremely happy about that, it’s fantastic. I really do appreciate all the people who went out and voted. I am honored and humbled.”
The budget included the loss of three elementary school teachers to retirements that are not being replaced.
“I’m not a fan of the large class sizes. I am upset with losing those three teachers. Smaller class sizes are more productive,” said Pawlewicz. “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. It’s all about the kids. That’s why I do this. I want to help provide the best for our children; I want our school district to be one of the best.”
Crandell is serving his first three-year term following his re-election.
Crandell has completed his first year on the board after winning his first election to replace a prior board member who resigned due to relocation.
“I like to know. I like to know where the money goes, what is going on in our school, and I really enjoy it. I’m glad to be re-elected, I enjoy being a part of this board” said Crandell. “I’m pleased with the budget pass as well. I wish there was a better turnout in voters though, people should get out and voice their opinion.”
Pawlewicz and Crandell are returning to the board with high hopes for the coming year.
“We are a very unique, educated board,” said Pawlewicz. “We are able to respect each other and listen to one another. When tough topics are brought forward, we understand that we may see things differently and we are okay with that.”
“I’d like to complete our capital projects, work on keeping our budget taxes down, maybe someday see no tax increase at all, and continue to work toward better graduation rates,” said Crandell.
The transportation proposition passed with 347 votes in favor and 179 votes against.
This proposition authorizes the purchase of two wheelchair buses.
The library proposition passed with 366 votes in favor and 155 votes against.
This proposition increased the Fulton Public School District Library to $357,344; a 2.1% increase from the current library levy.
“We are pleased for the library as well. They have worked very hard,” said Lynch.
An exit questionnaire was provided to all voters this year as well.
“We will read through those and organize that to be brought forward for the board. They will be available for public by the beginning of June,” the superintendent explained.
“I just want to thank all the voters who participated, taking the effort and commitment to participate in the budget vote,” he added.