Tonawanda News

The City

May 14, 2014

Residents mum on city school budget

Tonawanda News — No comments were offered at Tuesday night’s public hearing on the Tonawanda City School District’s proposed $30.7 million budget, set for a vote Tuesday. 

Superintendent James Newton presented an explanation of the $30.7 million budget at Tuesday’s board meeting. He highlighted the increase in state aid, which helped the district and closed the $800,000 gap the board faced at the start of the process.

“Restoration of some of the gap elimination did help,” Newton said. “But the district is still short $1,962,777 due to the gap elimination adjustment.”

The budget includes a proposed 2.55 percent tax levy increase for the 2014-2015 school year, but under a new state program, residents will be reimbursed for some of the increase on their tax bills. 

The district has chosen to participate in an optional, tax-freeze deal. As part of that program, qualified taxpayers will receive a rebate check for the difference between the current school tax bill and the next year’s bill, not including higher taxes due to increased property values as a result of the city’s recent assessment updates. 

To qualify for a refund, residents’ primary property must be located in the city and they must be eligible for STAR. 

Residents will still pay their tax bills, but will then receive a refund from the state afterward. Under a 2.55 percent tax levy increase, the average home bill would increase by $29.52 per year.

In the second and third years of the state program, the district will be required to develop a state-approved government efficiency plan that shows savings due to shared services, cooperative agreements or mergers. The district must stay within the state property tax cap, as well.

This year, the budget is below the district’s levy limit of 4.4 percent. Although the tax levy has been set, the board still needs to decide how to allocate some of the money, and those discussions will continue over the next few weeks. The board will likely reinstate a special education teacher at Fletcher Elementary — a position that had been eliminated after a retirement this year.

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The City