This is a historic year in Port Washington. It is the first time in the collective memory that there has been an uncontested school board election. So, great, no need to turn out and vote, right? Wrong!
And besides, with four new polling places, it's so much more confusing so I'll just skip it this year, right? Wrong!
The budget passed with such a big margin last year, there's no reason to think my vote will actually make a difference this year one way or another, right? Wrong!
And anyway, it's just the same old-same old, right? Wrong!
Two candidates running uncontested need to have a measure of their mandate from the community. The number of votes does matter. It's a measure of the public's support for those candidates. If you support them, you have an opportunity to vote yes. If you don't support them, you have an opportunity to vote on the other ballot issues and simply not vote for a candidate. Believe me, people do count and they really do the math.
New polling places: The community clamored long and loud for a solution that provided greater access to voting. It's costing all of us extra money in our tax bill to provide four polling places, staffed with paid poll workers, rather than one polling place staffed largely with volunteers, not to mention the mailings to notify voters. By now we've all received our green postcards telling us where to vote. This paper published the information. The school district website (www.portnet.k12.ny.us) and administrative offices have the information as well. There is no excuse.
The budget passed last year, but it didn't the year before. Even in a year with 'large' voter turnout, only about 25 percent of Port voters come to the polls. When the numbers are that small, every vote matters. Whether you support the budget or not (this writer does), you have an obligation to cast your vote. Those who don't vote give up their right to complain about the budget. It's that simple. (And by the way, if you want a say in what goes into the budget, you can always attend board of education meetings in January and February.)
Finally, whether you vote for a candidate or not, and whether you vote for the budget or not, there is a one-time opportunity to obtain money from the state for building projects in our schools that is not part of your local school taxes. It's called EXCEL money: the State of New York is offering Port Washington (and other communities) money to do capital projects. This year, the budget includes zero dollars for capital improvements. There are three priorities that have been identified that fit the criteria for this state aid: replacing a portion of the Schreiber roof that is leaking; replacing the main gymnasium floor at Schreiber that is perilously close to the end of its safe life for sports, and replacing ageing asbestos tiles throughout the school buildings. All we have to do to be able to do these projects is vote yes: it's the stipulation of the aid that the public votes approval for the projects. This is not a bond, and it's not budgeted. If we don't vote yes, we don't get the money, and the projects don't get done this year....but will eventually have to get done, most likely out of our pockets. The value of this additional aid is over $600,000, not small change.
So there are at least four reasons to get out and vote. See you on May 15, somewhere around town!
Susan Page Sturman