By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda School District is working its way toward closing a $1 million gap after making its second presentation this year for the 2013-14 budget.
In February, the district released a $67,280,756 overall budget, a $2.3 million increase from last year, though nine retirements, a state grant and a projected 2.54 percent tax cap as well as other cuts narrowed that number down to $66,655,756, leaving $1,020,686 to make up.
While there’s still a way to go, that’s a better starting point than several of the district’s recent budgets.
On Thursday during a regular school board meeting, Alan Getter, the district’s assistant superintendent, proposed to the board of education that the district eliminate five full-time elementary school position and two from the high school that could curb the shortfall down to $803,891.
The remaining gap now appears to hang on an initiative spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and being considered by the state legislature that could cap retirement costs and reduce the district’s expenditures by another $700,000 — something board members and district administrators eagerly await as New York nears its own April 1 budgetary deadline.
“I’m confident the governor will do the right thing and cap it at 12.5 percent,” said Superintendent Greg Woytila. “I think we’re very close.”
Should that initiative move forward and board members approve the staffing cuts suggested by administrators, the district would then be left with a $103,000 hole.
While most of the district’s seven members appeared to back Getter’s presentation, despite many vocalizing their displeasure with staffing cuts, very few were able to offer tangible suggestions as to how to eliminate the remaining shortfall.
“I think you are on the right track,” said board member Art Pappas, before adding that he has heard rumblings among residents that they were considering a move to another school district where there are more programs offered.
Board member James Martineck, who is in his first term, asked administrators to consider shared services, while Dorothy Kuebler queried Woytila on the possibility of hacking out additional line items. One option that was not mentioned was the closure of the administrative building itself, a topic that was broached during the 2012 budgetary process.
The meeting framed the difficulty seen by districts across the state, all of which are in the second year of meeting New York’s loose 2 percent tax cap. Many of the budget shortfall issues, administrators say, can be attributed to an unchecked health care system that swells personnel costs.
Another challenge mentioned by Woytila is trying to put together a budget while predicting how much state aid the district will obtain, which is often announced at a later date. That discussion will continue twice next month, when the board meets on April 11 and April 17 to hammer out the final details before the budget goes to the public for a vote May 21.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.