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Voters approve General Brown’s proposed tax rate increase

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The campaign to persuade voters to approve General Brown Central School District’s new budget had just about everything going against it.

The biggest obstacle, of course, was that the proposed tax rate exceeded the state’s cap. District officials said they needed an increase of 6.97 percent to pass their $21,026,877 budget for 2014-15.

This required at least 60 percent of those participating in the local school board/budget elections this week to vote in favor of such an increase. Given the stagnant economy that Northern New York has endured for years, this seemed very unlikely. General Brown Central, Dexter, was the only district in the north country whose proposed budget would necessitate a tax rate that exceeded the state cap.

Undeterred by the uphill battle, supporters of the tax rate increase put on a full-court press. They worked hard to convince people that the district needed this budget approved.

And against the odds, they prevailed. In Tuesday’s election, voters approved General Brown Central’s budget by 1,130-376. The total amount of support among all voters was 75 percent.

“District residents were told more than a month ago that a failing vote would probably mean the loss of interscholastic sports and staff positions, and supporters of the district waged an intense campaign to get out the yes vote with lawn signs and a cadre of supporters taking the message to friends and neighbors,” according to a story Wednesday in the Watertown Daily Times.

It would have been easy for district residents to turn the proposed tax rate increase down. Household budgets are strained, and few people in the north country are making more money than they were a year ago — or even longer.

Tax rate increases requested by public bodies rarely pass on their own merit. Such issues are usually decided by whether voters believe they can afford to dig deeper into their pockets to accommodate the need for additional revenue.

Members of the school community in General Brown Central, however, put their personal financial interests aside. They recognized the need that the district had for this budget. It’s going to cost people more money, but maintaining the quality education at General Brown Central was apparently worth it.

And General Brown Central was not an anomaly. Voters statewide approved 98 percent of all school budgets Tuesday, including about 65 percent of those whose tax rates exceeded the state cap. People want to keep their schools vibrant.

The voters in General Brown Central deserve a sincere word of appreciation for defying conventional wisdom and surprising many of us with their support of the district’s budget. Now the district can carry on for the next year knowing that essential programs and personnel are not in jeopardy.

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