SANBORN – About $2.2 million in cuts would have to be made to the 2014-15 Niagara Wheatfield Central School District budget to comply with the state tax cap.
During the School Board meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Lynn Fusco said preliminary figures indicated that a budget presented to voters with the adjusted tax cap increase of 4.8 percent would require significant cuts in programs and operations. She called the upcoming decisions “incredibly painful.”
Her presentation showed that the district would need a budget of $66.06 million to run the same programs next year. The new budget is $3.71 million – or nearly 6 percent – higher than this year.
In order to cover costs in that rollover budget, taxes would need to be increased by more than 12 percent, she said. Any proposed budget with a tax hike that exceeds the cap would need a “super majority” of 60 percent of voters for passage, an attempt that was tried and failed here last year.
A budget with no tax increase would require about $3.58 million in reductions, she said. To come up with the amount, administrators “brainstormed” cuts in a number of areas including buses at $500,000, kindergarten at $800,000, high school electives at $640,000, increased class size at $480,000, and coaching stipends that would eliminate interscholastic sports for a savings of $324,719, according to the presentation. Other areas on the list were club advisers, 5th-grade band, and buildings and grounds.
She explained that the list was not made to incite but to show how the budget gap could be filled.
She asked the board to look at the budget increase and the amount of money needed in order to give administrators direction.
When board President Steven L. Sabo asked for opinions from the four other members present, most agreed that voters would not be asked to pass a budget that had a tax hike larger than the cap. Some indicated they would like to see the tax hike closer to zero.
Board member Richard Sirianni said that based on the history of the district, the board could never convince a super majority of voters to approve an increase larger than the cap. Under state law, if a budget fails twice, the district must adopt an austerity budget that has no tax increase, it was noted.
The board agreed, however, that the kindergarten program would not be considered for cuts in the budget deliberations.
Most of the members told Fusco that they needed more accurate projections on how much the district might save this year by not spending all of the budget. Last year, savings amounted to more than $500,000, which the district used to purchase new buses.
Member Christopher L. Peters told Fusco to come up with a range of savings that may be expected in the 2013-14 budget.
Fusco said it would be difficult to determine exactly how much money could be expected to be saved this year.