By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda Board of Education on Thursday settled on a $65,740,756 budget proposal for 2013-14 that increases the amount paid for by taxpayers by 2.56 percent.
Residents will vote on the budget May 21.
Board members said the budget process was much easier than the past two years, when they sought to close large gaps in expenditures while meeting a state-mandated property tax cap, which led to widespread cuts to staff positions and programs for the 2012-13 school year.
While the district was facing similar challenges in the months that led up to Thursday’s unanimous adoption, with a $1 million gap also in play as late as February, the board and administrators were able to whittle it down with $350,000 in additional state funding and another $625,000 in savings when the state legislature agreed to hold teacher pension fund contribution increases to 14 percent.
Board President Frank DiBernardo said the board had to raise taxes — the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $53.60 on their school tax bill next year under the proposal — in order to ward off the kind of steep cuts that took place in previous years.
“If we didn’t raise taxes we would have to cut deeper,” he said. “Last year we cut programs we did not want to cut.”
If approved, the budget cuts eight full-time positions — six at the elementary school level and two at the high school — saving the district $400,000. Another nine teachers who announced their retirements for next year also shaved another $400,000 from a possible shortfall.
Superintendent Greg Woytila said, while difficult, the staff positions cut at the elementary school level were due to decreased enrollment.
High School principal James Fisher, in a presentation made to the board on Thursday, said he would compensate for the loss of two teachers by increasing class sizes and combining programs in health, science, math and English, though all the school’s programs would be maintained.
A public hearing will be held on the budget May 14 at the Alumni Student Activity Center. Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.