The Tonawanda City School District has a tax levy increase cap of 4.41 percent, but members of the Board of Education told administrators Tuesday that they are hoping for further spending cuts in the proposed 2014-15 budget to alleviate taxpayer burden.
The current draft of the budget is $30.9 million, a 3.4 percent increase over this year’s plan. There is an $821,508 gap between spending and revenue, which would account for a 7.03 percent tax levy increase. The district must cut at least $324,915 to fall under the state’s mandated tax levy cap, but board President Sharon Stuart asked administrators to go back into their proposals “to see what is a need and what is not.”
“Can we look a little further outside the box so we don’t have to cut staffing and programs?” asked board Vice President Jennifer Mysliwy. “There has to be something.”
Asking the community to pay more every year may hinder the district’s Tonawanda 2020 plan, which would consolidate three elementary schools into one over the next decade. The consolidation would require residents to approve another capital project to convert Fletcher School for additional students.
“I don’t think the community is going to approve it if we’re constantly raising taxes,” board member Danielle Opalinski said.
A few building principals pushed back against the board, noting they have cut their plans in years past.
“For five straight years, we’ve been cutting,” Fletcher Principal John McKenna said. “We’re down to pretty much bare bones right now.”
Tonawanda High/Middle School Assistant Principal Larry Badgley agreed with a community member’s suggestion to seek more shared service opportunities with other districts.
“We need to look at those other bigger ticket items,” Badgley said. “Districts all over are hurting now; it’s not just us.”
Richard Hitzges, an outside adviser who is working with Tonawanda to develop its budget plan, offered district officials a number of budget-slicing options that would drop the range of tax levy increases to somewhere between 4.4 percent and 2 percent.