By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Unlike memorable elections from the recent past, the budget passed in Niskayuna this spring without a fuss.
Only 495 voters, 17 percent, voted against this year’s budget; 2,494 were in favor. That’s hardly a surprise, considering a tax levy increase of exactly zero, achieved by a summer spent tearing the budget apart and painstakingly putting it back together in a leaner, more deliberate way.
The budget totals $78.1 million, a 1 percent increase over this year’s $77.3 million.
But as the six candidates for two seats on the Board of Education waited to find out who succeeded with voters, there was far more suspense.
After polls closed at 9 p.m. and vote counting began, a mechanical glitch with one machine forced candidates to stare anxiously at partially counted votes. They tried to make small talk while they waited.
Finally, Howard Schlossberg and David Koes breathed a sigh of relief as the red-and-white spreadsheet on the projector revealed they had won.
Schlossberg pulled together 1,443 votes and Koes gathered 1,190. Barbara Mauro, the only incumbent, came in third with 928 votes.
Winners worked as a team
Schlossberg and Koes decided early on in the election to run as a team against four other candidates: Mauro, Barbara Burgess, Brian Backus and Danielle Scolaro, who came in fourth, fifth and sixth in votes received, respectively.
“People said to us, ‘You’d work well together,’ ” Koes said. So the two worked together to forge community connections, and also put both their names on campaign communications.
The two winners also spent more than any other candidates during the election. Preliminary election expense documents filed by the candidates during the week of May 10 indicated Schlossberg spent $2,350.90 and Koes’ campaign bill topped out at $921.24. The two candidates pooled their funds to purchase signs, postcards, and other communications.
“Signs are the most effective things,” Schlossberg said. “It gets your message out without a filter.”
Preliminary spending reports lined up with the votes candidates garnered: Barbara Mauro was third at $661.77, Barbara Burgess spent $520, Brian Backus spent $473.45 and Danielle Scolaro spent $437.01.
The field this year was especially competitive, in no small part because of a change in leadership. Interim Superintendent John Yagielski will leave the district in June, when he will be replaced permanently by Cosimo Tangorra Jr.
Tangorra’s hiring inspired several of the candidates to enter the race. Some were involved in his interview process, while others hoped to capitalize on the opportunity to influence the district’s future.
“One of the main reasons I ran was there is a lot of change,” Schlossberg said. He said he hoped to “get in on the ground level” of any new policies and programs Tangorra might introduce.
Despite some late mudslinging with an anonymous attack website against Mauro and Burgess, the losing candidates shared a positive attitude as they left the polling site at Niskayuna High School. Backus offered a firm handshake to Schlossberg and Koes, while Burgess said she already had some ideas for other ways to participate in the district’s operations, like joining the board of Niskayuna Friends of Music.
“I’ll find ways,” she said.
Final election results
- Yes–2,494 (83%)
- No–495 (17%)
Board of Education Results
- Howard Schlossberg – 1,443 (win)
- David Koes – 1,190 (win)
- Barbara Mauro – 928
- Barbara Burgess – 904
- Brian Backus – 553
- Danielle Scolaro – 486
- Schlossberg $2,350.90
- Koes $921.24
- Mauro $661.77
- Burgess $520.00
- Backus $473.45
- Scolaro $437.01