Today is the big day for our region's suburban school districts.
What? You hadn't realized?
Fear not, here's a handy list - with links - to our voters guide, all of our stories from our series "Your Schools, Your Vote" that kicked off last week, and even an interactive graphic:
Check out our online voters guide: "Your Schools, Your Vote" to see what's going on with your district's budget and read what candidates have to say about why they're running and what they think of the state of education in New York.
And while you're at it, take a look at this interactive graphic that shows how taxpayers in many districts are footing more of the bill when it comes to educating our children.
The stories from the past week:
Tuesday, May 12 As state aid to schools rises, many districts start to exhale by Denise Jewell Gee, News Staff Reporter
Excerpt: The last six years saw budget cuts in schools throughout the region as districts furiously shed jobs and cut extras to make up for lost state aid, declining enrollment and rising costs.
This year is different.
While school leaders are still cutting back to balance the books, even those proposing to lay off teachers and other staff in 2015-16 see a future in which their budgets begin to stabilize.
“The sense of urgency in this budget was rounding the corner fiscally, building a foundation for the future,” Frontier Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said.
Wednesday, May 13 Mascot issue casts shadow over other issues in Lancaster by Karen Robinson, News Staff Reporter
Strong feelings over the mascot are expected to drive voters to the polling booth May 19, the date of the vote. Superintendent Michael J. Vallely is well aware that the mascot issue will play a role.
“I just don’t know how, yet,” he said.
However people vote, their decisions next week likely will mark a defining moment in the community.
“With the board race, the Lancaster community will be sending a message to Western New York and the nation on who we are, and what we believe in,” Vallely said.
Wednesday, May 13 Not a single candidate emerges for vacant Iroquois board seat by John J. Hopkins, Suburban Correspondent
Suppose they gave an election and nobody ran. Voters in the Iroquois Central School District will face that unusual scenario next week when they head to the polls for the annual budget proposition and School Board election.
Thursday, May 14 Tumult in Williamsville district leads to call for unity, healing by Denise Jewell Gee, News Staff Reporter
A deep divide between the School Board and the district’s teachers has produced one of the liveliest school elections in the Williamsville district in years. In two of out of the last three years, all candidates ran unopposed in the district accustomed to being highlighted for its academics. This year, there are seven candidates for three seats, and a wide range of opinions on how to maintain the district’s coveted top status in student performance measures.
And while there is little controversy over the district’s $178 million budget proposal, a plan to add turf, lights and concession stands at high school athletic fields has brought concerns from neighbors who felt they were left out of the early planning process.
Friday, May 15 From the chaos in Hamburg, finally, comes the calm by Barbara O'Brien, News Staff Reporter
But the aftermath of the dysfunction remains, and part of the cost of the chaos can be seen in legal bills for the district. Hamburg spent $403,000 on legal expenses from January 2014 through January 2015, with the exception of November’s bills, which were not released when the district responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by The News.
Saturday, May 16 Supporters, opponents focus on budget in Clarence by Jay Rey, News Staff Reporter
We’ll find out Tuesday whether Clarence taxpayers are as worked up about the school budget as they were during the tumultuous budget season of 2013.
That’s when a nearly 10 percent increase in the tax levy provoked a community uproar and motivated taxpayers to turn out in record numbers to defeat the budget. A second-chance budget was approved a month later, but only after significant cuts. In fact, it took donations from hundreds of parents and boosters to bring back the clubs and sports programs that were chopped.
But this year, the story line is different.
Saturday, May 16 Job cuts, aid changes complicate Niagara Falls vote by Aaron Besecker, News Niagara Reporter
When a school district says it may slash almost four dozen jobs in its next budget, a loud public outcry almost always follows.
But in Niagara Falls, where 45 positions appear to be on the chopping block, only the head of the teachers’ union spoke during the School Board’s public hearing on the budget.
And instead of hollering for school officials to save jobs, he joined with the district’s administration in tossing blame towards the state for what they perceive to be funding shortfalls.
Saturday, May 16 Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda incumbent surprised by loss of teachers union support by Joseph Popiolkowski, News Staff Reporter
In a surprising move, the unions went with challenger Andrew Gianni over incumbent board Vice President Stephen G. Brooks, who previously had their backing.
Sunday, May 17 As numbers of students falls, costs keep rising by Denise Jewell Gee, News Staff Reporter
“What we’re seeing overall is that, even though the student population is decreasing, spending is still going up,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative watchdog group that tracks government spending in Albany. “That trend is holding almost universally statewide.”
The good news is the pace of spending increases has slowed dramatically. Between the 2005-06 and 2010-11 school years, total budgeted spending shot up 19.3 percent. That was before the state’s tax cap took effect and the state took back promised state aid.
Still, when local residents in suburban, rural and small city school districts go to the polls Tuesday, they will see budget proposals that increase spending in 31 out of 37 districts. The amount of taxes to be collected will increase in 32 out of 37 districts in Erie and Niagara counties. One district, Cleveland Hill, will reduce local tax revenue. Four others will keep taxes flat.
Monday, May 18 Board candidates tackle education frustration by Denise Jewell Gee, News Staff Reporter
A solid majority – nearly four out of every five candidates who responded – were not pleased with the direction the state is taking public education. Their reasons were varied, and many felt that their local schools were performing well.
Some candidates described “excessive testing” as the primary problem. Others felt that state budget cuts that reduced promised funding to schools in recent years have eroded local programs. Many were upset about the loss of local control over educational decisions.
And today Districts hoping voter army marches on stomach by Barbara O'Brien, News Staff Reporter
...could the scrumptious aroma of the chicken barbecue influence residents to vote for the budget and incumbents?
That’s what one candidate for a Greene County school board said had happened in 1996, and he filed a complaint with the state education commissioner.