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Depew voters approve $41.2 million budget and non-binding vets tax exemption

Voters in the Depew Union-Free School District approved the Board of Education’s proposed budget of $41.2 million Tuesday evening.

Voters also approved the purchase of one 66-passenger school bus, two 29-seat school busses and one 29-seat bus with three wheelchair seats with $269,000 from the district’s vehicle purchase reserve fund.

A non-binding resolution on the Veterans’ Tax Exemption was also passed.

The budget passed by just over a two-to-one margin, 498 to 247. Approval of the bus purchases was won by a wide margin, 577 to 160. The Veterans’ Tax Exemption passed by a slimmer margin, but still an overwhelming majority of votes, 526 to 216.

Cayuga Heights Elementary School in Depew took on a festive feel during Tuesday evening’s budget vote.

The Depew marching band played in front of the school to nearly 100 people, while inside, an art auction and a chicken barbecue were held.

Residents streamed in and out of the library, where the voting took place, listening to music, eating or bidding on student-made art items.

Turnout in the district was up over last year, Superintendent Jeffrey Rabey said. By 7:30 p.m., an hour and a half before voting concluded, nearly 700 voters had cast votes on the budget, the Veterans’ Tax Exemption and authorizing the district to purchase three school buses. Last year, 539 people voted.

“Voting is up,” he said.

Residents of the district were presented with a $41.2 million budget, up 1.07 percent over this year’s budget. The tax levy was up 2.92 percent, the highest level allowed under the state’s tax cap. Voters were all asked to vote on the purchase of one 66-passenger school bus, two 29-seat school busses and one 29-seat bus with three wheelchair seats with $269,000 of the district’s vehicle purchase reserve fund.

Lancaster resident Maria Martin, whose home falls in the Depew Central School District, said she voted for the increased budget.

“The kids are out future,” she said, adding that the buses had been paid for. “Get it?”

Tim McCann, who lives on the Cheektowaga – Depew border, said his children went to school in the district, and have since moved on. The cost of most things is going up, he said. He voted in favor of the increase.

“It’s time for us to pay back,” he said.

One resident of the district came out to make sure his voice was heard on the Veterans’ Tax Exemption. Dwayne Steinel, who served with the Seabees Construction Battalion, questioned why the vote on the exemption was needed, when other districts have gone ahead with the exemption.

“I was surprised they didn’t make the decision before putting it to a vote,” he said.

Steinel stood 100 feet from the school, and greeted residents going in to vote.

“I’m out here to support the proposition,” he said. “It’s a small sacrifice for veterans.”

McCann said he fully supported the exemption.

“It’s the least we can do,” he said.

Board President David Sheff and Board Member Justin Young both ran unopposed, retaining their seats on the board. Sheff finished the night with 540 votes, while Young ended up with 583.

The art auction, in its 10th year of being held on election night, brought in $2,000, a new record, said Jennifer Hatfield, a teacher who organizes the auction. The money goes to the Roswell Park Alliance.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “Our kids are so talented, and for our community to support it…that’s what Depew is all about.”