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Niagara County voters approve budgets in all 10 school districts

Voters in all 10 school districts in Niagara County approved their budgets Tuesday, but some incumbent school board members met a different fate.

In Niagara Falls, voters gave the victories to incumbent Robert M. Restaino and newcomer Earl F. Bass in the county’s most competitive School Board election, in which five candidates ran for two seats.

Incumbents who fell included Niagara Falls’ Carmelette Rotella, North Tonawanda’s Colleen Osborn, Lewiston-Porter’s Betty Warrick, Wilson’s Mark Randall and Newfane’s Donna Lakes. All except Rotella finished last in their respective elections.

In Lockport, voters – by 1,070-848 – rejected a proposition to acquire 89 acres of land on Beattie Avenue for use as athletic fields. But another land purchase, 19 acres on Locust Street Extension next to George Southard Elementary School, was approved, 993-935.

On the other hand, Barker voters liked $1.9 million worth of building improvements for the district administration building and the elementary school. Lewiston-Porter voters went along with a plan to create a reserve fund of up to $3.5 million for use during the next decade.

Niagara Wheatfield voters also approved a capital reserve fund of up to $5 million to be spent over the next 10 years, and agreed to spend up to $500,000 to buy five new buses.

North Tonawanda voters agreed to spend nearly $2 million over five years to lease 24 buses, as the district plans in-house busing services.

With the state finally restoring aid it cut during the worst of the national economic downturn almost a decade ago, several districts had ideas on how to spend it. Niagara Wheatfield, for example, plans to restore modified sports, enlarge music and elective course offerings and restart a late high school bus run, all of which fell victim to budget cuts in the past.

Lew-Port was going to restore a librarian position and staff development opportunities for teachers.

On the other hand, in Lockport, where 42 percent of the students come from families who live below the poverty line, the district’s budget includes opting to join a federal subsidy program that will give every student, regardless of family income, access to free breakfast and lunch every day.