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All school budgets in Erie County pass

Voters approved budgets in every school district in Erie County on Tuesday in a day that saw most incumbents win re-election.

Among the highlights:

• Three teachers were elected to the Williamsville School Board and teacher-endorsed candidates won in Ken-Ton.

• Two college students were the top vote-getters in Iroquois and Orchard Park.

• A grandmother was elected as a write-in to the board in Tonawanda.

And in Lancaster, where supporters of the old mascot have waged a battle with the administration to bring it back, a heavy turnout re-elected incumbent Bill Gallagher and newcomer Sue Metz, who beat the pro-Redskins candidates by about 1,000 votes.

In Williamsville, the teachers association placed bright yellow signs on lawns and cars, and there were plenty more signs on cars in the parking lot of Williamsville North High School on Tuesday, when residents elected the union-endorsed candidates Teresa Leatherbarrow, Mary Bieger and Suzanne Van Sice. The three, all teachers in districts outside Williamsville, beat incumbent Anthony J. Lafornara III, who also is a teacher, and businesswoman Shonda Brock.

The endorsement of the teachers union was important to a number of voters, in a district where relations between the superintendent and staff have been less than smooth in recent years. Turnout in Williamsville was down from last year, when the union-endorsed candidates swept out two incumbents on the board.

“I’m a retired teacher. I feel it’s important to support the school system,” said Cindy Ingerson outside Williamsville North High School, where she voted for the candidates supported by the Williamsville Teachers Association. “We’re supporting the candidates who are supportive of teachers.”

The teachers-union-endorsed candidates at Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda, Christine Cavarello, incumbent Christopher Pashler and Thomas Reigstad also won, with incumbent Robert Dana leaving office June 30.

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It was a quiet year for budgets. The lowest tax cap in the five-year history of the cap and a $1.5 billion boost in state aid combined to keep taxes in most districts low. Even districts that had negative tax rates, Amherst, Hamburg, Tonawanda and Niagara Wheatfield, had no trouble passing their budgets.

The tax levy in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda District had the biggest percentage increase, at nearly 4 percent, also easily passed. Ken-Ton voters also established a nonvoting seat on the board for a student.

Young candidates did well. University at Buffalo college students Gunnar Haberl, 18, won in East Aurora and Dwight D. Eagan, 20, won in Orchard Park.

In East Aurora, voters narrowly approved a $1.71 million improvement project to the athletic complex by nine votes.

At Frontier Central, residents approved reducing the term for board members from five years to four years, starting in 2017.

With three seats open, and only two declared candidates in the Tonawanda City School District, four write-in candidates stepped up at the last minute and campaigned outside Tonawanda High School on Tuesday.

Former Board Member Sharon Stuart, along with Kristin Schmutzler and Becky Graff, campaigned outside Tonawanda High School on Tuesday. But it was Elizabeth Koch, a grandmother who said she’s always wanted to be on the School Board, who won the seat.

“I thought it was my time,” she said.

Voters were sparse in the early evening at Tonawanda High School. While the proposed budget of $31.8 million featured a tax cut, resident Charley Price, 69, voted against it. “I didn’t like it,” he said.

As for the write-in candidate, Price said he wrote his grandson’s name in.

In West Seneca, the budget easily passed, but not everyone was in favor of it. Tom Hanzlian voted against the $114.53 million West Seneca budget, which went up 1.81 percent.

“The budget always increases,” he said. “It never decreases.”

Karen Robinson, Joseph Popiolkowski and Michael Canfield contributed to this story. email: