SALAMANCA – The Salamanca City School District on Friday received $1.6 million in federal Impact Aid to provide tax relief to hard-pressed taxpayers.
Homeowners have been forced to carry a large share of the tax burden because so much property in the city is owned by Native Americans and therefore is off the tax rolls.
Superintendent Robert Breidenstein said the 58 percent of district residents that shoulder the tax burden for city schools will be getting a break. “This day was made possible when, about a year ago, a concerned group of people made it known that a recent reassessment had significantly raised their school taxes,” he said. “We knew it was a local issue, but we needed help from other levels – local, state and federal help.”
The issue made its way to Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning.
The remedy came from a 1950s-era program meant to ease the burden in school districts that had a federal presence that made portions of the land nontaxable. That purpose was expanded to areas that have a Native American population living on their lands in the latter half of that decade, Breidenstein said.
Salamanca schools have an annual budget of around $25 million. Of that amount, $3.5 million is raised through taxes. The school district has had no tax increase for the past two years, keeping the amount of money being taken out of residents’ pockets the same.
The district, although not completely on the Seneca Nation of Indians’ Allegany Territory, is approximately 42 percent tax-exempt. When an enrolled member of a Native tribe purchases real estate in the city, the property is taken off the tax rolls. A portion of the casino revenue is, by agreement, also intended to help offset the nontaxable properties.
The $1.6 million does have a restriction that a small percentage, yet to be determined, has to be spent on helping children with disabilities.