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New York Voters Overturn 70-Year-Old Debt Limit for Small City School Districts

In a significant turn of events, New York voters made history on Tuesday by approving a groundbreaking ballot proposal that will reshape the educational landscape for Auburn and almost 60 other small city school districts across the state. The unofficial tally, provided by the state Board of Elections, revealed 1,381,911 votes in favor, 766,036 opposed, and 286,357 left the ballot item blank. This landmark decision will have far-reaching implications for the future of education in these districts.

Historic Ballot Approval: New Debt Limit Paves the Way for School District Improvements

The passage of this ballot proposition marks a critical turning point as it amends the state Constitution to eliminate the longstanding 5% debt limit that had constrained small city school districts like Auburn, Cortland, Oswego, and Utica. Advocates for this constitutional amendment have argued that it was unjust for these schools to have a lower debt ceiling compared to other districts in the state. The majority of New York school districts had a debt limit set at 10% of their property values, leaving the small city school districts at a significant disadvantage.

New York Voters Overturn 70-Year-Old Debt Limit for Small City School Districts
Source: Reddit

Auburn Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo emphasized the adverse effects of the 5% debt limit on his district’s ability to complete essential projects. He noted that due to the low debt limit, they had to pay roughly 16 cents on the dollar to accomplish vital capital projects, resulting in substantial savings for taxpayers. Pirozzolo stressed that raising the debt limit was a necessity for small city school districts to level the playing field and ensure fair access to necessary improvements. This outdated 5% cap had been in place since 1951, and despite a previous attempt to repeal it in 2003, voters had rejected the change. Notably, more than 1.4 million voters in that election had abstained, neither voting for nor against the proposal.

Impact on Small City School Districts: Relief and New Opportunities for Development

With the resounding approval of the constitutional amendment, the 5% debt limit will be supplanted by a more equitable 10% ceiling. This transformation signifies a new era for small city school districts, allowing them greater flexibility and financial capacity to undertake essential projects, ultimately benefiting students, teachers, and the entire community. The removal of the debt limit will enable schools to make much-needed improvements to their infrastructure, educational programs, and services.

Governor Hochul’s Support

Adding to the significance of this development, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill in October to increase the debt limit for small city schools, contingent on the approval of the ballot proposition by voters. The strong show of support for the proposal, with nearly 60% of voters favoring it, reflects the collective recognition of the importance of this change in the small city school districts. Governor Hochul’s proactive measures to address this issue underscore her commitment to ensuring the growth and prosperity of these vital educational institutions.

New York Voters Overturn 70-Year-Old Debt Limit for Small City School Districts
Source: The East Hampton Star

In conclusion, the approval of the ballot proposal to eliminate the 5% debt limit in small city school districts is a momentous occasion in New York’s educational history. This decision opens the door to a brighter future for Auburn and its counterparts, empowering them to make substantial improvements to their educational facilities and programs. With Governor Hochul’s endorsement, this change reflects a collaborative effort to bring positive transformation to New York’s education system, benefiting generations to come.

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