Tonawanda News

Local News

May 15, 2013

NT budget, school board candidates debated

Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda Board of Education held its last meeting Tuesday before voters head to the polls next week to either back or reject a spending plan that includes a 2.56 percent increase in taxes slated for the 2013-2014 school year. 

The board voted unanimously to adopt a $65,740,756 budget in April, which would mean a $53.60 jump in resident’s school tax bills for every $100,000 of assessed property value if approved.

Board members have described this year’s budgetary process as less vexing than the last several years — when a state-mandated tax cap, the closure of Gilmore Elementary School and steep staff cuts were incurred.

That idea seemed to be supported by attendance numbers on Tuesday, with only several dozen residents on hand, only a few of them vocal, compared to a year ago when hundreds flooded into the Alumni Student Activity Center to voice their concerns.

Assistant Superintendent Allan Getter, who gave a brief presentation, indicated to the small crowd that while this year may have been a more subdued budget, challenges still lie ahead including the consistent utilization of reserve funds, the loss of federal and state aid and the growing problem of unchecked health insurance costs, though the district has sized down its staffing numbers from 630 to 563 since 2010 as enrollment numbers shrank from 3,820 to 3,661 during the same time frame. 

The district has earmarked $1.7 million in reserve funds to help cover costs for the the 2013-14 school year that Getter said was used to keep taxes lower than the 4.77 percent allotted under a complex state formula that starts at 2 percent, but allows exceptions for certain types of spending.

“This is the second year of the tax cap,” he said. “It’s very rarely 2 percent.” 

Five school board candidates running for two open seats also gave short presentations on their platforms in front those in attendance. 

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