Riding the tax escalator in western New York


Some Buffalo-area political notes:

New York takes a different approach to local school funding. A school board approves a budget, and calculations are done to figure out the property tax adjustment needed to bring in the required amount of money. Citizens vote on the budget in mid-May. If the budget is rejected, the board can make a second proposal. If that one fails, the board "would be forced to adopt a contingency budget." Thursday's Buffalo News had a story on suburban Orchard Park, where the school board president announced he would campaign against the 9% budget increase which was adopted by a 4-3 vote, because of the impact on taxpayers with fixed incomes. The board president had proposed a 6% increase. Here's the element of this story that will be familiar to Tulsans: board members on the winning side of the vote insist that the board president should support the adopted budget:

"I'm not going to comment on other board members, but they know how they should act, " said Joseph F. Bieron.

Jacqueline J. Paone, executive director of the Erie County Association of School Boards, said the law does not prevent a board member from campaigning against a budget, though such a situation is rare.

"When a school board makes a decision, regardless of what the vote is, the intent is the entire board would then support that decision," she said. "Does that happen all the time? No. But that's the advice we always give."

If a board member thinks a budget is bad enough to vote against, it only makes sense for him to try to make the same case to the electorate. Some people want to treat a school board or a city council as if it were like a president's cabinet, where members serve largely at the president's pleasure and together represent the president to the public. You would expect a cabinet to discuss policy options behind the scenes then unite behind whatever course of action the president chooses.

But a school board or a city council is a legislative body, and its members are individually responsible to the constituents who elected them. Insisiting on institutional solidarity will usually result in the betrayal of the interests of the voters.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 26, 2004 6:22 AM.

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