Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

May 27, 2013

Lew-Port may come back to voters with budget featuring 4 percent tax levy hike

Niagara Gazette — Following the defeat of its first budget proposal for 2013-14, Lewiston-Porter school board members must now decide how to approach a limited second opportunity.

One thing’s for sure, though. Whatever is decided on at the district’s next school board meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the district’s community resource building, 4061 Creek Road, Lewiston, it’s a final effort to avoid what many feel would be a cataclysmic event should a budget not be passed.

“(Tuesday) we’re going to establish where we want to go as far as bringing forward a new tax levy for residents to vote on,” School Board President Jodee Riordan said. “A contingency budget would take us to (this) year’s tax levy rate. But the state cut $1.9 million from us for next year. We were already below last year’s budget. With our lack of aid, we’re still looking to present a tax levy increase, but one which is more palpable for the community.”

The district’s failed attempt featured a $40 million spending plan, one which reduced spending from 2012-13 despite a massive proposed tax levy increase.

According to the state’s property tax cap law, which provides for a formula to calculate the district’s cap based on unfunded mandates like pension contributions exceeding 2 percent, Lew-Port can seek up to 4 percent more in tax levy without needing to override the law. The failed budget last week asked residents to support a 5.5 percent levy hike.

Riordan said though nothing is official, it’s not a forgone conclusion the board will automatically look to have voters pass the maximum levy increase. Some board members may seek a figure below the highest number.

Leading up to the board’s decision to try to override the cap in April, Superintendent R. Christopher Roser presented a spending plan which featured a 4 percent increase. In it, he proposed eliminating programs like modified sports for middle school students, an afterschool assistance program for struggling high schoolers and 11 teaching positions as part of about 30 layoffs across the district, among other things.

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