NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara Falls School Board on Tuesday night talked about a possible tax increase for the coming school year, with fears that the district’s financial situation could be worse a year from now and, without the increase, would require even more drastic actions.
Board members appeared split on whether they would support a tax increase for the 2014-15 school year, with some of them forecasting a possible 8 percent tax boost next year if nothing is done now.
In an 8-0 vote, the board approved a spending plan of $126.4 million for 2014-15 but remained undecided on where to set the tax levy, which they are scheduled to vote on April 10.
“We’re already starting in a hole next year,” said board member Johnny G. Destino, who said he would support a tax increase.
With the planned use of various “one-time” revenues and $2 million savings to balance the upcoming budget, some board members said they feel that, with expenses still rising, the district is going to face a larger budget gap next year.
Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco’s revised spending plan would end up with no teacher layoffs as it closes a $5.3 million budget gap.
However, under the plan, one teaching position would be cut through attrition, and there would be the equivalent of 2.5 support staff positions cut, officials said.
The financial picture painted Tuesday night was slightly rosier than scenarios laid out last week, when Bianco said that as many as 33 positions – including 10 to 15 teachers – could have been on the chopping block, depending on how much state aid comes in.
Aid arriving in the new state budget was $1.6 million more than included in the budget initially proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Board President Russell J. Petrozzi said he would like to see the district come up with an additional $1 million through increased revenue or cutting expenses. He was one of four members Tuesday who said they would consider a tax increase. Four board members said they would consider a tax increase: Petrozzi, Destino, Ronald J. Barstys and Vincent A. “Jimmy” Cancemi.
Board members Anthony F. Paretto, Robert M. Restaino, Carmelette D. Rotella and Nicholas S. Vilardo said they supported Bianco’s proposed budget. Board member Arthur Jocoy Jr. was absent.
Any budget that would raise taxes in excess of the state’s tax cap would require at least 60 percent of voters to approve it. Currently, the district has no wiggle room.
Bianco questioned whether the public would support a tax increase and suggested that the district has the funding to get through the next school year.