The City of Tonawanda Board of Education has adopted its 2013-14 budget, proposing a $20.5 million spending plan that would raise the tax levy 3.2 percent.
The board and a district budget advisory team debated whether to raise taxes anywhere from 2 percent to 4.5 percent. A 3.2 percent increase was chosen after a survey of board members revealed that it was the more popular option.
Stephen Perry, district administrator of business and finance, said Tonawanda had to increase taxes because financial aid from the state has decreased over the years.
“The district has traditionally had a low increase in the levy, and three of the past four years it’s been zero,” Perry said.
“During the time period those actions occurred, it was possible to do that because the state was not reducing state aid at the rate they’re doing now. It’s still less than what we received in the ’09-10 school year, and it continues to decline.”
With the 3.2 percent plan, the district will cut about $824,000 from the budget proposal, which includes reductions in the BOCES special-education budget, legal fees, two teachers at the middle school and a science teacher at the high school.
The budget plan also allows the district to replenish its fund balance with $131,000 going into the reserves.
Perry noted that districts like Tonawanda have depleted their reserves to keep their tax rates reasonable, but now many schools are in financial trouble and could face financial and educational insolvency.
Tonawanda’s proposed budget falls under the state’s new tax cap, which for the city would be 4.5 percent.
“The tax cap [takes] away the ability to control the budget,” Perry said.
“The boards of education are supposed to set the dollar amount of the budget, but with the tax cap, they now have to focus on the tax levy, and that is limiting the Board of Education.”
The budget was adopted by a 5-2 vote. Board members Sharon Stuart and Diane Misner voted against the proposal.