Tonawanda News — Entering the final week before residents go to the polls Tuesday, the North Tonawanda Board of Education held a public budget hearing Tuesday evening and a brief forum for school board candidates.
The board adopted a $68,423,968 budget in April that included a 1.87 percent tax increase that falls just under the state-mandated tax cap, with a tax levy of $27,338,052 equaling a projected tax rate of $21.86 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
As of Tuesday night, the board had agreed to cut six full-time teaching positions as well as nine support staff members they say would help close a funding gap, initially projected to be $2 million but scaled back after the addition of more than $1 million in unexpected state funding.
A crowd of about 35 attended the forum at the Alumni Student Activity Center, sparse in comparison to previous years and constituted in large part by employees of the North Tonawanda United Teachers union, several of whom spoke in opposition to the possibility of staff reductions to counselors and special education programs.
Amy Gorman, a social worker in the district, said her department was already “stretched thin” and had “taken quite a few cuts” over the last several years, a scenario she said was beginning to have an effect on the student populace.
“I just ask that you really thing about any more cuts to our department,” she said, addressing the board.
Karen Dillon, a school social worker at the high school, said her department has already felt the toll of previous years’ cuts, which are beginning to filter down and adding to growing social problems among students.
“Many of our children our struggling,” she said. “Without that help many more would not have made it.”
Three of the four candidates vying for two open seats on the school board also spoke fleetingly to the small crowd, laying out respective platforms and highlighting why they believed voters should choose them.