99% of school budgets win voter approval

Turnout up 23% amid high interest in board elections

On Board Online • June 6, 2022

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

Voter turnout for 2022-23 school budgets increased sharply from a year ago, most likely owing to increased interest in school board elections across the state.

The total number of votes cast for the 675 school budgets put up for public vote on May 17 was 641,946, a 23% increase over the 520,717 votes cast a year ago, according to a NYSSBA analysis of State Education Department data. It was the highest number of votes in in-person voting since 2014.

Despite the sharp increase, the vote total was far less than it was before the property tax cap went into effect in 2012 and even into the early years of the tax cap. For example, in 2010 voter turnout was 981,681. In the five-year period from 2010 through 2014, voter turnout for school budgets averaged 802,862.

In 2020, the number of votes cast on school budgets totaled more than 1.5 million. However, all school budgets were conducted via mail that year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Overall, 99% of school budgets passed statewide. Only seven out of the 675 were defeated (East Ramapo, Garrison, Hastings-on-Hudson, Mahopac, Mount Vernon, Newfield and West Hempstead). Budgets that needed only a simple majority of voter approval passed at a rate of 99.2%, while 88% of budgets that required 60% supermajority voter approval due to their property tax levies exceeding their capped amounts were okayed by voters.

Districts that had their budgets defeated may try again on June 21 either by putting the same or a revised spending plan before voters. Districts that suffer a second budget defeat must adopt a contingency budget. A contingency budget funds only those items the board determines to be "ordinary contingent expenses." Ordinary contingent expenses have been defined under law to include legal obligations; expenditures specifically authorized by statute; and other items necessary to maintain the educational program, preserve property and ensure the health and safety of the students and staff.

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