By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The City of Tonawanda school board passed a budget Tuesday for the 2013-2014 academic year that will increase the tax levy by 3.2 percent.
As a result, a resident who lives in a home worth $90,000 would pay an additional $49.80 in taxes next year if the plan is approved.
The board approved the measure by a five to two vote after a lengthy discussion. Residents will vote on the $29,858,602 budget May 21.
Board President Jackie Smilinich, Vice President Demelt Shaw, as well as board members Danielle Opalinski, Robert Shaw and Jennifer Mysliwy voted for the measure. Sharon Stuart and Diane Misner voted against it.
“I can’t hand out raises to teachers and then put the stress on the backs of our taxpayers,” Stewart said of the 2 percent raises most employees will receive. “We didn’t get the help that we needed from our staff, and that’s unfortunate ... and I have a very difficult time making cuts that affect our children.”
All of the tax options considered Tuesday included the same exact cuts, but under each option, different amounts of money would be entered into the fund balance. If the district does not move to increase the fund balance, it will likely be in the red by 2015.
The budget plans to cut three middle school teaching positions, but due to seniority, a high school english teacher will be cut and a middle school teacher will be transferred to the high school.
Prior to adopting the budget, the board approved a retirement incentive plan that will be offered until the end of May. If 10 staff members choose to take the plan, the district will save about $261,000.
The plan outlines incentives of $5,000 and higher for retiring staff members depending on their position.
Peter Buckley, of Wendel architects, also attended Tuesday’s meeting to provide the board with an update on the capital project. He said architects have completed a study of the choral and band rooms and determined renovations can be completed.
“There is no question you can get a terrific band and choral room,” Buckley said.
Project managers and the board turned to renovations — instead of the initial expansion plans — after those bids came in more than $500,000 over budget. Architects will now complete three-dimensional designs of the renovations, which will include raising the roof of the band room and expanding the width of the choral room.
“Our acoustical consultant is confident that will improve the acoustics and meet the requests,” Buckley said.
The board also awarded contracts for the general construction, plumbing, mechanical and electrical work for the construction of the football stadium. In total, those bids came in 15 percent lower than expected.
With those savings, and those from not expanding the music rooms, the board must now decided how to spend an extra $1 million that has been allocated for the project. Those extra funds will likely go to technology or security improvements.
The board also approved a $119,000 contract for the construction of a maintenance and storage building near the field. The original estimate for the building was $140,000 and although some board members questioned the necessity of the building, Buckley strongly suggested the board approve it.
“It came in under budget, and the equipment has to go somewhere,” he said. “It’s expensive, and it’s going to last a lot longer if it is protected.” Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150