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VOTERS' CONCERNS RANGE FROM TAXES
TO HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION, POLL SHOWS

Voters in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District want to see educational results and high-quality instruction at the same time they're worried about taxes and district spending, new poll numbers reveal.

The numbers are the outcome of the voluntary "exit polls" filled out in May by 3,061 residents who cast votes on the 1999-2000 budget and two open School Board seats.

School Superintendent David A. Paciencia said he interprets the exit poll results, tallied over the summer by staff in the district's administrative offices, to mean that Ken-Ton voters want to see a focus on tax issues and educational excellence.

"So often what you hear people say is they vote just on taxes. But people selected other options more often than that one," Paciencia said.

However, answers to one of the questions -- a fill-in-the-blank query about why those who voted "no" on the budget did so -- have been scrapped along with the poll forms themselves, because the often-lengthy comments written by voters included unflattering statements and references to specific individuals, Paciencia said.

The written comments were not shown to the School Board before they were shredded in the administrative offices, Paciencia said.

"We didn't want those comments publicized, because that wouldn't have been helpful. The numbers tell the whole story," he said. "It would have just embarrassed some people, and not just people on staff, but voters had written about other people in the community."

Results of the exit poll showed:

Most voters received their information on district issues prior to the vote from The Buffalo News and other local media. Overwhelmingly, The News was the top choice when voters were asked about where they had gotten their information, followed by television broadcasts and community newspapers. After those sources, voters mentioned the school newsletter and "personal contact" as information sources.

When asked which issues had most heavily affected their decisions about the budget and School Board races, respondents checked "educational results of Ken-Ton students" most frequently, or 288 times. The next highest responses, in order, were "quality of instruction," 260 times; "taxes," 222 times; and "level of spending and budget increase," 206 times.

Showing much lower response rates were categories including building appearances, course offerings, co-curricular activities, kindergarten, staffing adequacy and transportation.

Of the voters tallied, 1,451 said they had school-age children, while 1,504 said they did not. Of the number with children in school, 139 said their children went to non-public schools, while the rest said their children attended district schools.

When asked about their employment status, 1,347 of the voters said they were "employed," 284 said they were "employed by (the) district," and 1,099 said they were retired. The rest were students, unemployed or did not answer the question.

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