Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

May 14, 2013

Lew-Port board optimistic spending plan that exceeds tax cap will be approved by voters

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — School district elections are Tuesday, which leaves the Lewiston-Porter School Board little time left to reflect on the decisions it's made concerning its $40 million 2013-14 spending plan.

The budget exceeds the property tax threshold for next year, meaning voters will need to provide a supermajority of 60 percent support at the polls in order for it to pass.

Board President Jodee Riordan is quietly confident the proposal will receive the support it needs, because unlike in Niagara-Wheatfield last year, there has been very little negative chatter throughout the community, she said.

"I'm very hopeful our community will come out to support the budget, to support education," she said, following the district's mandated public budget hearing Tuesday. "Our issue is not with spending. It's with income. The state leaves us no place else to go. We've done everything we're supposed to do and we're still here."

Only a handful of residents were in attendance Tuesday, quiet following the last regular meeting featuring hundreds of concerned citizens creating a standing room only board room.

With an approval from voters, tax rates would be guaranteed to go up for both Lewiston and Porter residents. But the size of the increase, Riordan said, isn't as dramatic as the tax levy increase percentage may lead everyone to believe.

Compared to this year's levels, a Lewiston house valued at $125,000 would see an estimated increase of $113 under the basic exemption, while the same value house would see a tax bump of $52 under the enhanced version, reserved for senior citizens.

Porter residents with a basic STAR exemption would pay an additional $69 next year on a $125,000 value house, while the enhanced exemption will charge an additional $59.

"When you take into account the enhanced STAR exemption, it really isn't that much," Riordan said. "We're hoping they see this increase as an investment in the future. And with all due respect to those who are on fixed income, my income isn't fixed at all. At any minute I could lose my job, my husband could lose his job. We have four kids to support. We're laying off a bunch of people and they live here, they have families to support. There's not a lot of good things in this budget."

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