Tonawanda News

March 27, 2013

School tax hike likely in city

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — All three budgeting options presented at the Tonawanda City School District’s meeting Tuesday night would result in an increase in property taxes, though each plan would still cut overall spending.

Three tentative tax increases were detailed in the presentation: a tax levy increase of 4.5 percent, 3.2 percent and 2 percent. 

Those tax increases would correspond to $840,000 in budget cuts, $981,752 in cuts, and $1,112,463 in cuts, respectively. For a resident who lives in a home worth $90,000, option one would result in an additional $70.03 in taxes per year, option two, a $49.80 increase in taxes, and option three an additional $31.

And although many on the budget advisory team and the board are concerned about increasing taxes in a city home to many fixed incomes, those cuts correspond to student program reductions, as well.

All three of the options would result in $210,000 cuts to high school science, middle school reading and middle school language arts programs. 

The high school science cuts, for example, would drastically reduce the amount of time the students spend in the lab. 

And when compared to the 4.5 percent tax increase, the 2 percent option would result in additional cuts to enrichment programs, the elimination of an elementary teacher position and special education reductions. 

When asked for their opinions Tuesday night, residents serving on the budget advisory team opted for the two options that would result in less tax increases. 

“I think we should do the two percent ... and to be honest, residents want it to be zero percent,” advisory team member Elizabeth Olka said. “When a student walks through the door, there’s still someone there to teach them, even with those cuts.”

Others on the budget advisory team said they preferred increases somewhere between 2 and 4.5 percent. 

After the budgetary discussions, Peter Buckley, of Pike Co., and Brian Brady, of Wendel, gave the board an update on the district’s capital project. 

Buckley said the rebids for portions of the stadium work will be released Thursday and are due back April 10. Those rebids will allow construction to go on as planned while reworking of the music room renovations continue. 

In the next few weeks, some preliminary construction of the stadium is set to begin with the installation of fencing and the removal of top soil, Buckley said. 

Meanwhile, Wendel architects will be working on the redesign of the music rooms after the bids for the music expansion came in more than $500,000 over budget. 

The likely plan as of now is to remodel those rooms and improve the acoustics instead of expanding the music wing entirely. 

“We are working on the acoustics and the drawings,” Brady said. “We have about three more weeks before we’ll be finished with them.”

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150