Tuesday, voters across the state will decide whether to approve property tax increases to fund public schools. In the Town of Clarence, where voters are being asked to approve a tax hike of nearly ten-percent, someone vandalized a sign paid for by those opposing the increase.
"The sign was of a woman. It was a stock photo. And, of course, it had her face and everything else on it. Today, we wake up to it and somebody wiped out, painted, crosses out with paint, the vote no and put yes," says Lisa Thrun.
Thrun is one of the Clarence homeowners leading the charge against the proposed 9.8-percent property tax increase to fund public schools.
"It's controversial and people are a little bit worried about that," she says.
Thrun helped put a large sign up across from the high school, and until sometime this weekend, it looked just like the mailers she sent out.
"Some black signs went up claiming that the Clarence taxpayers say let the schools rot. We've had other signs defaced, and ones that are actually disrespectful to seniors. And, we've had a lot of signs also stolen off of private property," she adds.
So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the stolen and defaced signs. But Thrun's concerns go beyond the vandals.
"We're hearing from seniors that are afraid they're going to lose their home, and small business owners, they're not going to be competitive if they have to pass that on to their customers, and families that are saying I don't know if I can stay in New York anymore because the taxes are just so high," says Thrun.
"People are out there like oh I'm not going to afford to be able to live in Clarence. That's the big beef out there for seniors, and I understand people on fixed incomes, I get it, but where else are you going to move? The only other choice you have to move to pay lower taxes is Holland," says Tricia Andrews.
Andrews is a PTO president who is trying to get a spot on the town's school board. She supports the tax increase. If approved, the district says the owner of a $200,000 home would be paying an additional $252 a year.
"Are you confident the budget will pass?" asked Kelly Dudzik.
"I have to believe it will. We'll see Tuesday. If it doesn't, I think they have to make 37 more additional staff cuts, and where they're going to make those cuts, obviously has to be for the non-mandated programs which is all your music, all your sports, your school nurses, your librarians. I mean, possibly kindergarten isn't even mandated," said Andrews.
While the women don't see eye to eye on how to fix the district's budget problems, there is one thing they can agree on. They do not appreciate the actions of the mystery vandal.
"This is not something people in Clarence do and whoever is doing it is shutting down the conversation," says Thrun.
"It's Clarence. Usually we're top notch in things and classy, so I just think, I don't know, that's poor class," says Andrews.
We could not find any signs supporting the tax increase. And, there may be a reason for that. Those in favor of the tax increase tell us they found several of their signs in a dumpster.
Since Clarence is asking voters to approve a tax hike that is above the state's property tax cap, more than 60-percent of voters have to approve the proposed budget in order for it to pass instead of the normal 50-percent plus one.
Click Here to view a full list of candidates running for Clarence Board of Education.