Tonawanda News — The Tonawanda City School District considered implementing a 1.1 percent tax levy increase Tuesday night ahead of a tentatively scheduled budget adoption next week.
Although all options are still being considered, the 1.1 percent levy increase would result in a reduction of the current tax rate down to $17.19 per $1,000 of assessed value. But Interim Financial Manager Richard Hitzges warned that residents’ tax bills could still be higher due to this year’s change in assessment values.
Residents have received their updated assessments and are now able to challenge them, so the process has not been completed, but City Assessor Dave Marrano has estimated that the assessed value of the average residential home has increased from $88,000 to $92,000.
“I think these numbers are pretty good for an estimate on a preliminary basis,” Hitzges said. “The tax rate could be lower, but the assessed valuations could result in a higher bill.”
At the start of the budgetary process, the district faced a $821,508 budget gap. The board then cut almost $500,000 from the draft budget, and received $438,732 more than what was expected in state aid.
Although those figures would result in a surplus budget, Hitzges has recommended that the district put money into the teacher retirement system, which is currently underfunded, reduce the transportation aid estimate by $107,092 to reflect the current projections and add in $50,000 — as an additional teacher may be needed next year.
After taking those and other changes into consideration, the district would face a shortfall of $123,406. A 1.1 percent levy increase — which is below the district’s cap of 4.4 percent — would be necessary to balance the budget.
But on Tuesday night, Board President Sharon Stuart said she was concerned that the community would vote down any budget that includes a tax levy increase.
“Our residents have fixed incomes and they have just received increased reassessments of their homes,” she said, discussing the possibility of implementing a zero percent increase. “We have to be mindful of that.”