Tonawanda News

The City

March 12, 2014

Tonawanda district faces $821K budget gap

Tonawanda News — Board members in the Tonawanda City School District reviewed cost-cutting options and asked school principals to review their budgets Tuesday night as part of the attempt to reduce a projected $821,508 budget gap.

“Everyone could go back in the budget and see what is a need and what is a want,” school board President Sharon Stuart said. 

The principals agreed to take a second look at their proposals, but argued that they have not asked for many increases and that finding more cuts will be difficult.

“We’re down (to) pretty bare bones right now,” Fletcher Principal John McKenna said. “I hope the community understands we’ve been cutting for five years. We are beyond bare right now.”

The working draft budget for the 2014-2015 academic year specifies a current budget of $30,882,892 — above the estimated revenue of $30,061,384. But that revenue does not account for a rise in tax levy, which voters would have to approve, or a possible increase in state aid.

“We are hoping to get more state aid. That would really help us close the gap,” Superintendent James Newton said.

If the board chose to implement the current budget without any reductions, the tax levy would increase by 7.03 — higher than the district’s 4.41 tax levy limit. Overriding the limit would require 60 percent of residents to vote in favor of the budget.

That’s proved a difficult proposition for many districts in the region who have tried it and Tonawanda district leaders expressed reservations about trying it.

“We are not recommending that,” interim Financial Manager Richard Hitzges said. 

Newton presented reduction options Tuesday night, including the use of money from the Highland school sale, savings on employee health insurance and the use of a grant for an instructional coach.

The board also approved six retirements at its meeting Tuesday. Replacing those positions with new employees would save $180,000.

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