The Williamsville School Board is considering a preliminary budget that would increase spending by $5 million or 3 percent next school year and raise taxes by $4.2 million or 4 percent.
That does not include, however, the potential loss of federal money due to sequestration that may reduce aid to the district by between $168,000 and $278,000 for special education and other requirements.
The proposed 4 percent tax increase, if approved by the board, would represent the largest the district has put before voters in eight years. A number of board members, however, said they’d like to see the taxes raised even higher to 4.3 percent, which is this year’s state tax cap limit for Williamsville.
If a 4 percent tax increase is supported by the board, it would translate into an estimated tax rate of $18.97 per $1,000 of assessed property tax value, an increase of 62 cents. Superintendent Scott Martzloff said his proposed budget would preserve all academic and extracurricular programs, restore a full-time middle school social worker position, install additional surveillance and school security access systems, and support a fifth-grade iPad initiative.
In response to prior concerns raised by board members, however, Martzloff eliminated $225,000 in heightened security costs that would pay for an additional school police officer and school entrance monitoring personnel.
“Certainly, in better fiscal times, it’s something we might consider restoring,” Martzloff said.
He also said that since the last board meeting, the district anticipates saving an additional $145,000 in personnel costs through teacher retirements and enrollment changes.
Finally, the budget under discussion Tuesday would allocate $9.7 million in reserves to mitigate tax increases. This is $250,000 less than what was allocated in 2012-13.
Thomas Maturski, assistant superintendent for finance, said the huge $3.1 million leap in pension costs accounts for much of the difference between this year’s 2.8 percent tax hike and the 4 percent increase proposed for next school year.
In response to the budget presentation, some board members said they support the preliminary budget hike of “under 4 percent.”
Martzloff’s proposed budget technically raises taxes by 3.99 percent.
“I do think this is a fiscally responsible budget,” said board member Jay Smith.
Several board members, however, said they’d like to see the budget raised back to the tax cap limit of 4.34 percent, given the possibility that the state tax cap may be much lower in 2014-15.
“We don’t know what next year could be,” said board member Michael Schmidt.
The board will have another budget work session on March 19.
In other news:
• Board member Peter Bergmann, president of Sisters of Charity Hospital, announced his intention to run for re-election to his board seat.
He was appointed last year to fill an unexpired term.
• The board approved the spending of $920,000 to purchase eight school buses as part of the district’s bus replacement program. The money would be spent from the district’s transportation capital reserve fund.
• A Williamsville East High School student raised concerns about academic rankings assigned to all high school students, which she said causes harmful and unnecessary competition and comparison among peers.