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As the Maryvale School District heads into planning a budget proposal for 2013-14, School Board members Monday told administrators they were comfortable with a spending plan that would raise taxes 3.54 percent.

Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Stephen Lunden presented board members four preliminary budget estimates that offered a spending-increase range from 1.46 percent to 0.9 percent. The potential tax rate increase ranged from 2.45 to 3.54 percent.

Administrators presented the board the figures to gauge its level of comfort for the tax rate. The 3.54 percent tax increase would keep the $36.4 million budget proposal as is, but the 2.45 percent figure would mean a spending cut of about $201,000.

“We’ve cut significantly over the past three years,” said Superintendent Deborah Ziolkowski. “We don’t have a lot left to cut.”

Board members expressed support for the 3.54 percent tax increase. Several agreed with the superintendent that the proposal would maintain the district’s current programs.

“We can’t keep gutting reserves,” said Margaret Bourdette, board president. “I like [this option]. It keeps our programs intact and our staff intact.”

However, some board members expressed concern about public perception of the tax hike, given the state’s recently enacted tax-cap mandate. The cap is devised under a complex formula that differs by district. School districts that propose a budget with a tax increase under the cap need only a simple majority vote by district residents for approval.

“My fear would be that 3.54 percent tax increase would be taken the wrong way,” said board member Patrick Weisansal. “But at some point, we need to do what’s best for us.”

Should the budget be defeated by voters twice, Maryvale would be forced to convert to a contingency budget that would keep the tax rate the same as this year but would require the district to cut about $745,000.

“That, as you can imagine, would be very severe for our budget,” Lunden said.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com