Members of the Williamsville School Board deliberated Tuesday night on whether to keep the tax increase associated with next year’s school budget at just under 4 percent or to increase taxes by 4.26 percent in order to install more security cameras.
The superintendent’s $169.5 million budget proposal would grow spending by $5 million, or 3.05 percent, next school year and raise taxes by $4.2 million, or 3.99 percent. The percentage increase would be the highest the district has seen in eight years.
The budget, however, does not yet include the potential loss of federal money due to sequestration that may reduce federal aid by between $168,000 and $268,000.
“Our school districts have already made significant budget reductions, including here in Williamsville, that have brought us to the point where additional reductions are going to be very challenging,” said Superintendent Scott Martzloff.
He reiterated that his budget proposal safeguards all academic and extracurricular programs.
If a 3.99 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. That would result in a tax bill increase of $62 on a $100,000 home.
Given an anticipated drop in available state building aid for 2014-15, the board debated whether to fast-track its security camera installation plan and add 98 more cameras in addition to the ones it already plans to install in 2013-14.
If the board agrees to spend an additional $284,171 and raise taxes to 4.26 percent, the board could install 98 more cameras than it originally planned and lift the burden of paying for those cameras when state funding is even tighter in 2014-15.
Some board members expressed interest in supporting the 4.26 percent tax levy increase in order to accomplish this. The district’s cap this year is 4.34 percent.
“We’re still under the tax cap, and we still get the cameras,” said board Vice President Ronald Shubert.
However, several board members questioned whether money could be reallocated from other sources, including the district’s capital construction budget, additional state grants, and overtime and equipment rollbacks in the proposed budget.
President Carrie Kahn and board members Michael Littman and Mohan Devgun said they would be reluctant to adopt a budget that exceeds the 3.99 percent tax levy. Board member Jay Smith and others asked to wait until the state budget is finally adopted before coming to a decision. The board must adopt a proposed budget by April 9.
As part of the budget discussion, Martzloff reviewed budget reductions that the district has already undertaken, including nearly $3.47 million in reductions this year. The budget proposal also allocates $9.7 million in reserves.
In other news, two more candidates, Michael Kane and Anthony J. Laforna III, intend to run for School Board seats. Incumbents Peter Bergmann, Kahn and Devgun have said they intend to run for re-election.