FORT COVINGTON - Voters throughout the state are slated to go to the polls today to decide on school budgets and propositions and choose members of their boards of education.
In Northern Franklin County, the most hotly contested school board race is expected to be in the Salmon River Central School District, where seven candidates are vying for three seats on the board. The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council has endorsed three Native candidates running for the school board.
SRCS school board incumbents Robert Durant and Sheila Marshall are running for re-election, while Jon Pontius, Michael Conners Jr., Jason McDonald, Tammy Frances and Darrell Lapage also seek a seat on the board.
The board race has been controversial, with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe backing Ms. Marshall, Mr. Conners and Mr. McDonald in an effort to increase the tribal presence on the board.
Ms. Frances, Mr. Lapage and Mr. Pontius originally were also running as a slate, but Mr. Pontius was dropped from the effort after he made remarks viewed as intemperate about a Meet the Candidates forum sponsored by the tribe. The trio did not attend the forum, which was held at the school, saying they believed the use of the school for what they said was a partisan event violated state Education Law.
Salmon River also has a proposition that would discontinue at-large elections for the school board. If the proposition passes, vacancies on the board would instead be considered separate and specific seats. When candidates fill out the nominating positions to run for the board, they would need to cite a specific seat vacancy for which they are running.
The SRCS board is also asking the public for the authorization to purchase no more than one 65-passenger bus, one 28-passenger bus and an eight-passenger bus. The sum of the purchase will not exceed $200,000.
SRCS voters will also be asked to decide on the 2014-2015 budget, which totals $29,453,598 with a tax levy of $1,978,899.
The SRCS tax levy increase is below the tax cap and the taxpayers will be eligible for a credit for the increase in taxes from 2013 to 2014. Taxpayers should receive the credit before the November elections.
St. Regis Falls
In St. Regis Falls, school board Vice President Thomas OBryan is being challenged by Stacey Mascia-Susice.
The $8,348,207 budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year carries a tax levy projected to increase 1 percent.
Taxpayers will also be voting on a proposition for the purchase of one wheelchair-accessible 60-passenger school bus.
There will be no tax impact in the 2014-2015 school year for the purchase of this bus, according to a district newsletter. The first principal and interest payment will be due during the 2015-2016 school year, which is the same year the district receives the first of five state aid payments.
The state aid covers 90 percent of the bus cost, according to the newsletter.
Brushton-Moira Central School taxpayers will see a $2,928,740 tax levy increase in the 2014-2015 budget, with a proposed budget spending of $17,283,890. The 3.99 percent tax levy increase is under the districts state tax cap limit of 4.56 percent.
While the levy is up 3.99 percent, the estimated tax rate increase is up 2.63 percent per $1,000 assessed property value, based on the May 1 tentative assessments and town equalization rates.
To help offset the levy increase, the board is using $745,941 from its fund balance, which now projected to be $1,878,313.
Voters will also be voting on a proposition to purchase one bus and one van for a cost not to exceed $121,954.
Taxpayers will also be voting on filling three board of education seats.
Incumbents Dennis Egan, Tracy Edwards-Warren and Marice Bright are unopposed in their re-election bids.
Polls in Salmon River and St. Regis Falls will be open from noon until 8 p.m. Voting in Brushton-Moira will be from from 1 to 9 p.m.