Passed, At Last

ELLERY – The second time is the charm for the Bemus Point Central School District’s 2013-14 budget.

When the votes were tallied Tuesday night, a total of 1,042 ballots had been cast and the $13 million budget was passed by a revote margin of 601-440 – with one blank ballot cast.

Handshakes and hugs were in abundance as members of the district’s board of education celebrated the passing of a budget which had seen its share of both support and opposition over the past month. Administrative staff also expressed satisfaction with the number of community members who turned out for the revote, which constituted exactly 600 more votes than the 442 cast in the initial vote.

“We are very pleased that the community came out to vote,” said Jacqueline Latshaw, district superintendent, in a statement from the board. “We are extremely thankful to our district residents for supporting our school.”

“It was really big that we got a lot more people coming out. And hopefully they’ll be involved in the process next year,” added Patrick Green, board president.

The original budget was voted down by a 227-215 vote, forcing a second round of budget proposals, hearings and voting. Ultimately, the board opted to put a nearly identical budget up for the revote, making only miniscule revisions but revamping the method in which it was presented to the public.

At the second public hearing last week, Latshaw and Charity Mucha, business manager, clarified several aspects of the then-proposed budget that were deemed to be confusing or misinterpreted by the public.

Mucha recapitulated how the district arrived at its 5.67 percent tax levy increase, and explained how the increase still falls within the guidelines of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent tax cap.

Latshaw provided a separate presentation that focused on the changes to the educational system in the 21st century and why the purchase of updated technology is necessary to stay ahead of these changes.

“We really feel it’s a fair budget,” Green said at the hearing. “We feel it’s reasonably good for the taxpayers, and reasonably good for the students; as good as we can come up with now.”

The budget’s passing means Bemus Point will avoid having to adopt a contingency budget that would have called for $424,134 in state-mandated cuts to the purchasing of computers and additional common core materials. Latshaw also said programming and staff cuts would have been necessary in order to implement the contingency budget.

Now that the proposed budget has been passed, Latshaw said the board is looking forward to working with district residents when it comes time to start constructing the next budget.

“We are hoping that we will continue to see more community involvement in the future,” she said.