After casting his votes Tuesday May 15, Warrensburg resident Dave Spatz exits from a voting booth in the Warrensburg High School gym lobby while school election official Patti MicGlire (right) observes. Citizens throughout Warren County approved their school district budgets handily in the annual election, but ousted a number of incumbent school board members.
Voters throughout northern Warren County approved their local 2012-13 school district budgets — restrained under the state’s 2 percent tax cap — by a hefty margin on Tuesday May 15.
In Warrensburg, voters endorsed a $18.6 million budget that represented a $175,000 increase, or about a 0.1 percent hike in expenditures and a tax levy increase of $125,500 or 1.6 percent. The vote was 485 to 272 for approval.
In Lake George, where the school district officials have been reeling for a full year from their first budget defeat ever in 2011, voters okayed — by a vote of 1008 to 618 —the district’s $20.5 million budget, which represents an increase in expenditures of $2563,000 or 1.25 percent. The budget calls for a tax levy increase of $230,000 or 1.3 percent. A separate proposition to purchase one 66-passenger bus at a cost of up to $124,000 plus a minivan, was also approved, 939 to 593.
In the North Warren School District, voters overwhelmingly endorsed a $12 million budget calling for a $311,000 or 2.5 percent decrease in spending that is to result in a tax levy increase of of $181,000 or 2.1 percent. The vote was 315 to 90 in favor of the fiscal plan.
In Bolton, residents approved a $8.5 million budget calling for a $132,000 or 1.6 percent increase in expenditures, with a projected tax levy increase of $103,000 or 1.5 percent. The vote was 241 to 102 to approve the spending plan.
Warrensburg school board president Dean Moore said he he was happy with the heavy voter turnout, about 70 percent higher than in recent years.
“This was a tremendous turnout, and we’re happy for the support of the budget which represents a lot of work,” he said. “Now we can expect the district to propel forward despite all the obstacles put in front of us by the state.”
Superintendent Tim Lawson said he was happy the voters realized the challenges the school officials had dealt with in preparing the spending plan. He noted that it was fortunate that the school district had built up a fund balance in recent years — an action that prompted some controversy — because it came in useful in meeting rising expenses this year while keeping the tax levy increase minimal. The rising fund balance, Lawson said, was due to savings reaped in the last several years when the special education student enrollment dropped substantially below estimates. Lawson warned, however, that upcoming years would present renewed fiscal quandaries.
“Down the road, our financial challenges are bound to continue,” he said.
WCS, LGCS incumbents ousted
In Warrensburg, rookie school board candidates Paul Weick and Doug West defeated incumbent Richelene Morey and former school board member Brian Lace by a substantial margin. Weick received 410 votes, and West, 403, with Morey tallying 377 and Lace trailing at 231. The latter two had throughout their tenures on the board gained reputations as fiscal conservatives, while Weick and West campaigned on maintaining and bolstering programs.
In Lake George, incumbents Virginia Etu and Robert Bolen lost their seats to two challengers, fiscal reform candidate John Murphy and moderate James Powell. Murphy and Powell received 905 and 680 votes respectively, while Etu garnered 640 and Bolen, 272. Vocal fiscal conservative David Klein, also a challenger, received 582 votes.
In Bolton, school board incumbents Pamela Quigan and Kathleen Pfau were re-elected with 253 and 244 votes respectively, along with newcomer Chris Gabriels who received 219 votes. Incumbent Dennis Murphy trailed with 184 votes, losing his seat in the process.
In North Warren, incumbents Bruce Hiller and Bruce Robbins were re-elected uncontested.
Weick said his campaign of positivism resonated with the WCS voters.
“I was emphasizing Burgher pride and I will be doing all I can to maintain Warrensburg’s top-quality academic program,” he said.
West, who is known for his ever-present smile, also said his positive message connected with district residents.
“Instead of tearing down the school system, I believe in building it up — to draw people into the community for years to come,” he said.
West added that he was committed to assuring that the new state-mandated teachers’ performance evaluations were customized, if possible, to make them relevant and appropriate to local needs, rather than arbitrary.
“I want to make sure that the teachers who really engage kids are retained and rewarded,” he said.