NIAGARA FALLS – For the first time since 1993, Niagara Falls School District officials are asking local property taxpayers for more money.
But under the proposed budget going before voters in two weeks, there aren’t any program cuts or layoffs.
The spending proposal for the 2013-14 school year would increase the tax levy – the total to be paid through property taxes – by 3 percent.
Preliminary estimates from the district, based on property valuations from 2012-13, indicate the tax rate would increase by about 56 cents for each $1,000 of assessed value, or about 3 percent, to $19.22 per thousand.
For a property assessed at $75,000, school taxes would increase by $42, based on the estimated figures.
“Everybody’s just looking to hang on,” said Timothy Hyland, administrator for school business services.
In the district’s $124 million spending plan, $25.8 million in revenue would come from local property taxes, up from about $25 million this year.
Officials say the tax levy increase covers the amount the district would have received under the gaming compact between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians. The Seneca Nation has withheld payments as a part of its long-standing dispute with the state, which is in arbitration.
District officials also said they have to account for about $2.2 million in increased pension costs, which “pretty much wiped out our state aid increase,” Hyland said.
The district’s finance officials pointed to a number of ways in which they aim to reduce costs:
• Fifteen employees recently took an early-retirement incentive. Twelve of those positions were filled, leaving three others eliminated through attrition. Officials say that will save the district about $400,000.
• Operation of the alternative high school program is being taken back from Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services and will be located in the former 60th Street School at an estimated savings of about $600,000.
• The responsibility for eight special-education students is being brought back to the district from BOCES.
Overall, state aid would account for roughly 73 percent of the district’s revenue in the 2013-14 spending plan.
Under the tax cap, the district would have been able to increase the tax levy up to 3.77 percent, said Rebecca Holody, budget manager.
For the May 21 budget vote and School Board election, the district has reduced the number of polling places to eight sites.
That decision was made to reduce costs, as well as to assure availability of enough of the new voting machines being borrowed from the Niagara County Board of Elections, officials said.
To look up your polling site, go online to http://vic.ntsdata.com/niagarsd/pollingplacelookup.aspx.
Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. May 21. For more information about polling places, voter registration or absentee ballots, call the district clerk’s office at 286-4204 or 286-4116.
A public hearing on the budget proposal will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Niagara Falls High School. In addition to the budget votes, six candidates are running for two open seats on the nine-member School Board.