Rome voters approve $117.9M school budget

Published May 16, 2018 at 4:00pm

While Rome school district officials initially had concerns about how the first local property levy increase in three years might affect the public vote on the 2018-19 budget, the spending plan passed comfortably Tuesday.

The $117.9 million budget was approved by 66 percent of district residents who voted.

Also approved was a $4.92 million energy-project for Rome Free Academy and Staley Elementary School that was supported by 73 percent of those voting. That project did not need voters’ approval for the work to proceed, but the approval means the state aid rate for the project will be 93 percent instead of 83 percent.

In addition, three candidates on the ballot were elected to three available seats on the Board of Education, each for three-year terms beginning July 1: incumbent Paul Fitzpatrick, plus Leigh Loughran and Jonathon Matwijec-Walda. Incumbent Karen Fontana did not seek re-election, and the other available seat had been held by Timothy Safin who recently resigned after pleading guilty to falsifying business records.

Statewide, voters approved 97.6 percent of school district budgets, down from 99.3 percent in 2017, according to the New York State School Boards Association; included were 653 budgets approved, and 16 defeated. The association today was awaiting results for seven districts.

Schools statewide had proposed an average tax levy increase of 2.14 percent, the association said. School districts have varying maximum allowable tax increases, based on state formulas in conjunction with specific financial factors for each district.

The Rome school district’s 2018-19 local tax levy will increase by 3.96 percent, which is within its maximum allowable increase of 4.19 percent.

“Initially you’re concerned” about a tax increase when district officials “first started talking about it two months ago,” Rome district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said Tuesday night regarding a potential impact on the budget vote. But he said there turned out to be “very little negative discussion” that came back to the district; while there were “a few complaints,” they were not enough to “make us worry about being successful.”

Blake said of the two-thirds budget approval, “I’m glad the community supported the kids....You can’t keep moving the district forward without support of the community for kids.” Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Management Robert Mezza Jr. agreed, “It’s nice to see the support for the budget and the energy-performance contract.”

Regarding the energy-performance project vote, Blake said of the opposing votes, “when you vote ‘no’ for something that increases your financial responsibility as a taxpayer, it doesn’t make any sense.” He said some people may not have understood that they were voting to approve a higher state-aid rate, rather than for the project itself to move forward.

A total of 935 people voted, the district said. The district has about 21,000 voters.

Among other school districts’ election results that were approved:

• Adirondack

Budget: $28.35 million — 441 yes; 176 no. Capital Project: 340 yes; 276 no.

Board of Education (two seats): Richard Gallo, 511; Amanda Sturtevant, 502.

• Camden

Budget: $52.22 million — 303 yes; 24 no. Board of Education (three seats): Richard Paul Sr., 235; Jamie Albrecht, 191; Jesica Prievo, 173; John Dean, 170; Colleen Gloude, 110.

• Clinton

Budget: $27.9 million — 599 yes; 115 no.

School bus purchase — 595 yes; 115 no.

Board of Education (two seats): Samuel Catterson, 426; Melinda Leising, 422; Donna Arancio, 399.

• Holland Patent

Budget: $34.58 million — 398 yes; 143 no.

School bus purchase — 432 yes; 105 no.

Proposition for student to serve on Board of Education — 475 yes; 65 no.

Board of Education (one seat): Kathleen Smyth, 476.

• Oriskany

Budget: $15.34 millón — 201 yes; 37 no.

Board of Education (two seats): Amy Mayo, 201; Brian Judycki, 150; John Stewart, (was third but vote tally not unavailable).

• Vernon-Verona-Sherrill

Budget: $37.2 million — 373 yes; 125 no.

Board of Education (two seats) — Christopher Brewer, 349; Melissa Palmer, 285; Sean Finnerty, 275.

• Westmoreland

Budget: $22.1 million — 326 yes; 106 no.

Board of Education (three seats) — John Acee, 304; Katrina Bratge, 273; Denise Szarek, 243; Charlene Hartman, 195; Mitchell Lemaire, 177.