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State aid on voters’ minds as East Aurora school budget passes

The $30.9 million 2015-16 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents in the East Aurora School Tuesday, while a pair of incumbents were reelected to the school board.

Voters passed the spending plan by a margin of 702-167. The budget includes a 2.56 percent tax cap levy.

Also on Tuesday incumbents MaryBeth Covert and Kimberlee Danieu will each serve for three more years on the school board after fending off a challenge from Douglas Crow. Covert, the current board president, collected 698 votes, while Danieu garnered 615 votes. Crow finished third with 254 votes.

About 700 voters had cast their ballots in the East Aurora School District as of about 7 p.m.

On the minds of many in the district this election was the amount of state aid it receives.

Although East Aurora recently received $238,000 more in state aid than originally anticipated, the superintendent and some board members feel the district was shortchanged because the percentage increase that came from the state was lower than many other districts.

East Aurora resident Liz Reimer believes the state is wrong in giving the district back a smaller percentage because of the perception of how wealthy people who live in the community are.

“We’re unjustly measured because of the few ridiculously wealthy (who live in East Aurora),” Reimer said, noting that she does not “begrudge” anyone because of their wealth.

She believes that because of how much money “two or three” families have, the numbers are not correct.

Reimer, who grew up in East Aurora, said the district has always been among the tops in Western New York and is upset that the district is paying negatively because the state perceives the community as wealthy.

Another resident, Joseph Simsblind, said he believes other districts are hurting worse than East Aurora.

“I’m happy with what we’re getting,” Simsblind said.

Like Reimer, he said the district has always been outstanding, and that as a retired school teacher, he continues to come out to vote because he is “interested in what’s going on.”

Superintendent Brian D. Russ said Tuesday he does not understand how a gap elimination adjustment is still in place when there is no gap? The superintendent said because the district is considered wealthy, they received the lowest percentage of state aid restoration, which he believes is between and 20 and 25 percent.

He said since the meeting in April, he has heard from several residents who want to see the GEA eliminated and the funding restored to the district.

“I think there are a number of people who are concerned about the lack of restoration,” Russ said.

According to Russ, he has held conversations with state lawmakers, including State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan and Assemblyman David DiPietro, whom he said are both hoping to help the district restore funding in next year’s budget. Russ also added he has talked to them about seeing there was anything they could do to help get the district some additional funding for 2015-16, but noted at this time, there is nothing “definitive” on the horizon.