NORTH TONAWANDA – The North Tonawanda School Board is facing less public resistance to its $65.7 million budget proposal for the 2013-14 school year than it has in recent years.
Residents will vote Tuesday on a budget that would raise the tax levy by 2.56 percent, or an additional $53.60 per $100,000 of assessed value. That is below the district’s legal tax cap of 4.77 percent, said Alan Getter, assistant superintendent of administrative services.
The board would use $1.7 million in reserve funds to lessen the taxpayer burden and would avoid the deep cuts that made previous budgets unpopular with many residents.
In 2011, voters rejected a budget with a 1.95 percent tax levy increase that cut more than 40 programs and more than 45 full-time or equivalent staff positions.
A year ago, there was strong backlash to further layoffs and the closing of Gilmore School, but the budget was passed.
“The last several years have been extremely painful as programs were cut due to the imbalance of expenses to revenue,” Board President Frank DiBernardo said in a letter to residents. “This year, a priority was to maintain our current level of services, program offerings and athletics and the board tasked our administrators to achieve those goals.”
“The Board of Education worked hard to develop a budget that would preserve programs and activities for students,” Superintendent Gregory J. Woytila said. “Working to do this and stay within the limits of the Governor’s tax cap is extremely difficult.”
A $350,000 increase in state funding and an additional $625,000 in savings from the state legislature’s agreement to hold teacher pension fund contribution increases to 14 percent helped the board close the roughly $1 million budget shortfall the board was projecting earlier this year.
The district will also save about $400,000 because of 10 teacher retirements, Woytila said, and another $400,000 will be saved by cutting five elementary school classes next year and consolidating music and foreign language instruction.
The proposed budget drew just a few mild critiques from residents at Tuesday’s public hearing, most of them dealing with the continued reduction in music education.
Residents will also vote to fill two open board seats. The incumbent candidates are Art Pappas and Colleen Osborn. First-time candidates seeking the three-year term are Susanne Williams, Robert Schmigel and Randy Bradt.