Tonawanda News

Local News

May 19, 2013

School budgets walk the line

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — Mondanaro said the district has started making efforts to prepare itself for when that time comes. But reducing the reliance on those funds means that the district’s lost revenue must come from somewhere, whether it’s from increasing taxes — while staying under its tax cap — consolidating schools, or cutting educational programs and teachers.

The challenge is one that school districts across the state are facing in an era when state aid is an annual guessing game and local tax bases are shrinking.

“Crafting budgets this year was like walking a tightrope,” Executive Director of New York State School Boards Association Timothy Kremer said. “Move too far in one direction and you cut too deeply into educational programs. Move too far in the other direction and you run the risk of exceeding your tax levy limit.”

But despite the constraints, the state’s average tax levy increase was just 2.8 percent — below the average allowable increase of 4.6 percent. Although the legal cap is publicly perceived as 2 percent, each district’s upper limit is calculated individually based on a number of different factors.

Locally, Ken-Ton’s tentative increase is 4.66 percent, more than one percent less than its cap, but a good deal higher than the state average. In the City of Tonawanda, the increase amounts to 3.2 percent, again, less than its cap of 4.6 percent. NT’s tax levy increase totals 2.56 percent, while its cap is 4.7 percent. 

All three budgets are subject to the public vote Tuesday. 

How the mandated "2 percent" tax cap works: Each district's actual tax cap is calculated individually based on many factors, including: • The change in taxable property values -- such as the addition of new housing, stores or offices • A carryover of up to 1.5 percent of unused tax levy growth from the previous year • Pension contribution increases • Capital costs, including bonds and interest for capital projects • The district can override its tax cap if the budget is approved by a supermajority of at least 60 percent of voting residents

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley

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