Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 at 8:36 pm by

The State Education Department has yet to release its compilation of budget voting results, but from scouring news accounts, we and other groups conclude that approximately 95 percent of school districts passed in Tuesday’s first round of votes.

This year’s pass rate is down from last year’s 96.5 percent, but still a bit higher than the 92.2 percent average for the period since 1998, the inception of statewide voting on the third Tuesday in May.

I’ll write more when we have complete data from the State Education Department, including the actual vote counts by district.

But one pattern is already clear.

In a prior post I noted that the number of districts seeking the 60 percent super-majority needed to over-ride their levy limit was notably down from a year ago – 27 districts this year [UPDATE:  A subsequent review by SED identified a 28th district attempting an over-ride], compared to 53 last year.

The success rate on over-ride attempts is down even more dramatically:  64 percent last year, but only 26 25 percent this year.

Of the districts proposing tax increases within their levy limit a year ago, 99 percent passed in the May votes.  In our partial results so far this year, 98 percent achieved voter approval.

In the prior post I speculated that one reason for the lower number of over-ride attempts this time could be that district leaders took note of last year’s divergence in pass rates.

The much wider variance in this year’s results would seem to powerfully reinforce lessons about staying within the limits.

From anecdotal reports and actual data from a few regions, it appears voter turnout was down from last year.  That is not a surprise.

Turnout last year was probably elevated because it was the first year of tax cap voting and districts made extensive efforts to educate communities about the implications of that change.

Also, past turnout increases have tended to coincide with more dramatic news concerning school budgets or broader economic conditions than what we have seen this year.

Council Executive Director Bob Reidy spoke about the votes with the Albany CBS affiliate (link not available).

I discussed the outcomes on Capitol Tonight along with School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer (Time Warner Cable subscription ID required).

I previewed the vote and explained some of the patterns in proposed budgets on Susan Arbetter’s Capitol Pressroom radio program.

In my prior post I wrote some about what school district property tax report cards indicated about budgets and trends.

I noted that only one high need district was attempting an over-ride.  Also, on average, high need districts are reducing unrestricted reserves at a faster rate than other need/resource level groups, and are using assigned fund balance as a more significant share of their proposed budgets. [UPDATE:  a later review by SED identified South Seneca as attempting an over-ride; it is a high need rural district].

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