OSWEGO — Oswego County’s school districts on Tuesday counted ballots and some released unofficial vote totals for their Board of Education elections and budget referendums.
Elections for Oswego County’s nine school districts are normally held in May, but were pushed back roughly a month due to the coronavirus pandemic. All districts took measures to allow voters to cast ballots while reducing the spread of the virus, including holding entirely by-mail votes as did the Oswego City School District or installing public drop boxes where voters could drop off their ballots like the Fulton City School District.
The following results are unofficial and provided by respective districts’ administrative offices. Boards of Education in the coming days will hold meetings to certify final results.
OSWEGO CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
The Oswego City School District passed its proposed $88.5 million budget by a vote of 2,594 to 1,380. The spending and revenue increased by roughly $2.5 million over last year, and district officials closed a $1.6 deficit over the past several months to balance the books.
The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed home value will drop from $20.19 to approximately $16.80 in 2020-2021, according to district officials. The estimated tax impact for a home assessed at $100,000 would fall from $1,405.04 to roughly $1,084.02, an estimated savings of more than $321 on a $100,000 home. The rate fluctuation is due to recent changes in the tax equalization rates for all the municipalities in the district.
The budget will be the final of Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey’s career. Since taking over in 2015, Goewey has never had a budget defeated at the polls. He will retire in August after a 36 year career in education.
“I’m very happy once again to have the support of the OCSD community to endorse a budget that is student centered and fiscally responsible,” Goewey told The Palladium-Times shortly before midnight Tuesday.
Three seats on the Board of Education were also contested in the election. Pamela Dowd and James MacKenzie were the only candidates to file petitions to appear on the ballot and unsurprisingly dominated the voting. Dowd received 2,971 votes and MacKenzie 2,715. The third open board seat would go to the eligible individual with the most write-in votes: Lisa Glidden will serve a three-year term after receiving 275 votes.
Glidden joins the Board of Education after handily outpacing the field for the third and final open seat.
A New York native who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Washington and moved to Oswego in 2007, Glidden is professor of political science at SUNY Oswego with a concentration in global and international studies. Reached by phone Wednesday morning, Glidden thanked her supporters and said her two children who attend Fitzhugh Park Elementary School and her years on the Fitzhugh Home and School Association motivated her to make her first attempt at public elected office, combined with the unusual ballot circumstances of only two candidates for three open positions.
“I saw there would be an empty seat and I know New York’s finances are in a state where I’m concerned about (education) budget cuts — it will take creative ideas and innovation for our district to handle what’s coming,” said Glidden.
Glidden previously served two terms as president of the SUNY Oswego Faculty Assembly, a time-consuming responsibility she says was incompatible with the commitment required for Board of Education members. She recently declined to seek another term on the Faculty Assembly — with her newfound time, she’s ready to get to work as a Buc board member.
“I’m going to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research,” she said.
Dowd, a lifelong Oswego resident with two children, has a daughter and a grandson in the district and a daughter-in-law who is a teacher.
Dowd was a part-time employee of the district and a member of the CSEA union for 11 years, seven in food service and four as a monitor at the high school, but left last year for full-time employment with the Port of Oswego Authority.
Dowd became involved with the Board of Education when she was an active Home & School member.
MacKenzie and his wife have lived in Oswego for the last 16 years and have two children in the district. From a family of educators in Niagara Falls, he originally majored in secondary education at SUNY Fredonia where he gained experience in both middle and high schools. MacKenzie has spent the last 16 years teaching biology at SUNY Oswego.
The three new board members will be installed at the district’s July reorganizational meeting.
Two ballot propositions also passed easily. Proposition No. 1 approved the district's plan to bond for up to $220,000 for district vehicles; Proposition No. 2 established a capital reserve fund to be funded up to $10 million over 10 years for improvements to the district's seven school buildings.
FULTON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
Voters in the Fulton City School District passed its $73.77 million budget with more than 65 percent of the vote. The final tally was 1,552-810, according to district officials.
The overall budget total is a $423,000 increase from 2019-20.
District officials made more than $2 million in cutbacks since the Board of Education presented its "roll forward" budget in February. By the final budget workshop in May, there was still a $831,000 budget gap.
The board chose to make some cuts and raise taxes to the 2 percent cap instead of using fund balance and reserves. The cutbacks included reductions in staff through retirements, athletics and other measures.
The estimated increased tax impact amounts to roughly $35 for a $100,000 residence, school officials said.
Fulton voters also approved a transportation proposition for two passenger vans not to exceed $73,000 by a vote of 1,474-862.
All three incumbents on the district's Board of Education kept their seats. Brenda Abelgore received 1,608 votes, Robbin Griffin was next with 1,567 votes and Dave Cordone received 1,333 votes. Challengers Kayla Kimball and Dennis Merlino fell short with 1,134 and 757 votes, respectively.
Merlino won the trustee seat on the library board with 1,746 votes.
Altmar-Parish-Williamstown re-elected two Board of Education members and approved its $33.1 million budget by a vote of 538-336.
Voters approved a proposition to purchase three student transportation vehicles and one van at a cost not to exceed $325,830 by a vote of 535-352. Voters also approved the creation of a construction capital reserve fund not to exceed $10 million by a 525-351 vote. A proposition establishing a capital reserve fund for vehicles not to exceed $2 million also passed 513-363.
Mark Mattison and Shawn Clark successfully defended their seats on the board as Clark received 600 votes, while Mattison garnered 559. John Britton (372) and James Corbett (159) did not succeed in knocking off the incumbents.
Voters in the Central Square Central School District approved an $81.3 million budget in a 2,097 to 1,046 vote. A proposition to purchase several vehicles at a cost of roughly $1.25 million also passed 2,156 to 984.
Kristy Fischmann, Michael Lawyea and Steven Patch were re-elected to the district's Board of Education with Fischmann receiving 2,268 votes, Lawyea 2,128 and Steven Patch 2,165.
Voters in the Hannibal Central School District approved a $35.2 million budget by a 578-307 vote. The district's two ballot propositions also passed: Voters approved the purchase of five transportation vehicles at an estimated cost not to exceed $550,000 by a 555-333 vote, and also approved the use of $250,000 from the Transportation Reserve Fund by a 605-283 margin.
The three incumbents on the Board of Education kept their seats. Jessica McNeil received 612 votes, followed by Gregory Hilton with 596 votes and John (Jack) Pope with 537 votes. Challenger Tammy Miner fell short of earning a seat on the board, garnering 454 votes.
More than 70 percent of voters in the Phoenix Central School District approved the $47.3 million budget with a final tally of 1,192-508.
Phoenix voters also approved by a 1,182-527 vote a proposition to purchase three 66-passenger buses and two seven-passenger vans. The vehicle purchases will be 90 percent aided by the state Department of Education, district officials said.
Wayne Halstead and Earl Rudy each kept their spots on the district's Board of Education with, respectively, 1,272 and 1,267 votes. Katherine Loveland Kehn was the top write-in with 31 votes to take the third seat.
PULASKI ACADEMY AND CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Nearly 80 percent of voters in the Pulaski Academy and Central School voted overwhelming in favor of the $27.6 million budget, for a final unofficial total of 608-168.
Jan Hefti and Travis Rice each won seats on the Board of Education for receiving 713 and 683 votes, respectively.
Residents in the Sandy Creek Central School District approved the district’s $23 million budget in a 590-213 vote.
Michele Warner was the only candidate to file a petition and appear on the ballot for an open seat on the district's Board of Education. Warner received 703 votes and an unidentified write-in candidate received 26 votes, district officials said.
Results from the Mexico Academy and Central School District were not available by press time.