Tuesday, voters in 12 school districts in Columbia and Greene counties will go to the polls to approve or reject budget proposals and elect candidates to their boards of education, all in the shade but not the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the elections to watch take place in the Cairo-Durham, Coxsackie-Athens and Ichabod Crane school districts, where multiple candidates are competing for a handful of open seats.
Drama surrounds Hudson City School District’s election for the opposite reason: A shortage of candidates. One person filed an election petition in a district with three vacant seats, opening the door for a flood of write-in candidates.
Drama of a different sort has played out in all districts as school officials held their breath awaiting how much state aid they will get and the amount property taxes might increase as bills from COVID come due.
Six candidates are running for three open seats in Coxsackie-Athens, five are seeking three seats in Ichabod Crane and five are vying for three seats in Cairo-Durham.
Candidate deficits created an interesting and disturbing development this year. Six boards of education elections are contested, but another six are unopposed. Blame it on COVID, if you will. Potential candidates might not be ready or willing to spend night after night sitting around a table at social distances and wearing required masks in the coronavirus era.
For example, Catskill will field four candidates running for four available board seats and Hudson has one candidate for three seats. It is noteworthy Hudson and Catskill are the Twin Counties’ two biggest school districts in terms of budget.
But one constant is many public-spirited candidates who don’t mind the long meetings, high stress and unpaid hours. Instead, they welcome the challenge of governing districts with budgets in the millions of dollars.
School board candidates should reflect a cross-section of their communities and that has not changed this year. Challenged or unopposed, they represent a broad range of youth and age, experience and occupations.
They also have deep roots in their communities. Many candidates attended their hometown schools and enrolled their children in those same schools. Their reason for running strikes a common chord. Education and community service are legacies.
For more information about your school district budget and the candidates running for your school board, check your district’s website. Many contain budget breakdowns and the names of board candidates.
Polls will be open until 9 p.m. in most school districts. We encourage you to vote Tuesday in your school budget and school board elections.