West Hartford Forums

“A candle is enough to light the world”

The Recipe for a Successful Referendum

Posted by whforums on June 24, 2008

I was poking around in the tubes when I came across this article — “Why Do School Budget Referenda Fail?” (link to a free, full download of the article is at the bottom of the linked page). Its research scope is only the New York State Public schools (the chief researcher is from Cornell), but the findings are still pretty compelling. If you don’t feel like reading 21 pages of academic hoo-haw (sp.?), here are some highlights:

“Two previous studies found that an increase in elderly voters was associated with no change or a reduction in educational spending per student, however when the elderly and the school age population came from different racial groups, both found that an increase in the fraction of elderly voters was associated with lower educational spending per student” (page 5).

and …

“… the estimate implies that defeat (sic.) a budget referendum in one year increases the probability that this will occur in the next year by 7.8 percentage points. Thus, budget referendum do have a narcotic effect (author’s emphasis), in the sense that they increase the chance that a district’s voters will defeat the budget proposal in a subsequent year” (page 18).

and …

“Voters in school districts whose board members have longer terms have a lower probability of rejecting budget proposals” (page 20 — this runs counter the the final claim in the abstract — after reading the paper, the f inal claim in the abstract seems to have been inverted).

So … take one part shifting racial identity of town, one part recent referendum success, add a pinch of short term limits and … sound like any place you know?

Anyway, “Yes,” don’t despair …

“For those districts that held second votes on the same or a revised budget, the probability of passage the second time was 58%” (page 12).

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6 Responses to “The Recipe for a Successful Referendum”

  1. Cynic said

    Good try but that s not how the discussion has gone.

    So far the question has been to open up the budget process and gain more transparency to the system.

    BTW in the referendum, some of the heaviest NO voting came from the Elmwood section.

    By the same token in the budget process the BOE has to keep in mind the need of the rest of the town.

    BALANCE is what we are striving for and unfortunately we sometimes need a referendum to bring about balance.

  2. WH Alum said

    Balance we will not get. More transparency, maybe… but at what cost? Look at what we are losing now. Maybe some of it does not matter to most people. I can live without the vacuum leaf collection, as well as reduced pool and library hours. I am frightened at 28 kids in a classroom.

    Where is the future of WH headed? Are we to become just another inner-ring suburb, more and more urban and less and less quality? I’m not sure who I feel worse for… those of us who have always lived here and like it the way it is (or was…) or those who moved in recently and are not going to get what they expected.

  3. Concerned Homeowner said

    And all the while, I keeping thinking of what my grandmother used to always say when she saw some cheap b*st*rd trying to save a nickel while losing a significant amount of wealth because of his miserly ways: “Penny wise, pound foolish.”

    Let’s get real for a moment. When these old f*rts who never cut their lawns or paint their houses decide to finally sell their houses, who do they think is going to buy their houses? Another old f*rt who’s looking for a town with low taxes? Or a young family looking for a close-in town with short commutes and excellent schools?

    So enjoy your tax cuts today, you economic idiots! Because your balance sheet just took a huge hit. If I was a young family re-visiting this issue, I’d be looking elsewhere. And I suspect I’m not alone.

  4. Megan said

    I’ll bet you don’t speak about your parents in that manner Concerned Homeowner.

  5. Emporer of Ice Cream said

    Why wouldn’t he or she? Concerned Homeowner makes an incredibly good point.

  6. Cynic said

    The “old f*rts” in my neighborhood all maintain their homes impecably.

    They also express the same concerns for schools and services, and they are all outrage that the Council and BOE refuse a Management audit. And yes they along with younger parents are signing petition #2.

    BTW, 1 of these “old F*rts” just refinanced their home (2nd time in a year. This time the bank assessment came in $5K LOWER, this after doing much improvment on the house

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