The property tax rate would rise by 3.05 percent next year in the Lancaster Central School District under the budget adopted Tuesday night by the School Board.
Spending rises by $3.2 million, or 3.5 percent, in the $94.72 million budget that goes to voters next month, while the amount to be collected in taxes, a figure known as the tax levy, rises by 3.96 percent.
School officials said Tuesday they hope district residents will look favorably on a budget that reins in spending as much as possible without making deep cuts to academic and extracurricular programs.
“I’m proud to say that we are maintaining our programs, and I’ll be asking my neighbors to support this plan,” Superintendent Edward J. Myszka said before the School Board voted, 7-0, to approve the proposed budget.
The 2013-14 budget plan eliminates three elementary school teaching positions because of declining enrollment, and it projects that five employees who are taking an early retirement incentive won’t be replaced.
Lancaster expects to receive $28.2 million in state aid next year, a $12,186 increase over the 2012-13 budget but millions of dollars less than what the district received before the recession.
Spending for next year rises primarily because of increased costs for staff and teacher salaries and benefits.
The district is relying on $10.99 million from reserves and fund balances to limit the size of the proposed tax increase.
The 3.96 percent increase in the tax levy is well under the 5.99 percent cap set by the state.
The tax rate would rise by 3.05 percent, from the current rate of $16.05 per $1,000 of assessed value for a property in Lancaster to $16.54 for next year.
The owner of a home in Lancaster assessed at $100,000 would pay $49 more in school taxes.
The district also covers a small portion of the towns of Cheektowaga and Elma.
Before Tuesday’s vote, David Zalenski, a former School Board president, said he would support the proposed budget but believes the board needs to take a harder look at funding sports, music and other extracurricular offerings in the future.
Those programs are laudable, Zalenski said, and he recognizes that their cost is a small part of the overall budget.
But he said the district “can no longer be looked at as the be all, end all” for its students, and the School Board needs to demonstrate it is “sharing the sacrifice” it has asked of taxpayers and employees.
Zalenski’s comments sparked a passionate response from his former colleagues.
Board member Brenda Christopher – who said she was “shocked” by Zalenski’s remarks – said residents, by overwhelmingly approving recent budgets, have shown they are willing to pay a little more in taxes if the money goes toward providing a high-quality education to the district’s students.
The School Board will hold a hearing on the proposed budget May 13, and residents will vote May 21.