Niagara Gazette


March 18, 2014

Working to avoid layoffs|Lew-Port superintendent says staff cuts not expected as budget talks continue

Niagara Gazette — Financially, Lewiston-Porter is in trouble. Superintendent Christopher Roser is planning a budget for 2014-15 with a $1.3 million deficit staring him in the face.

Fixing it will be tricky, but the 39-year veteran educator believes, if some pending question marks fall in his favor, the district could make it out of these next few months without the anxiety-laden nights he suffered through this time last year.

"We're not looking at any reductions in staff," he said Tuesday. "We've laid out a few ideas we have. But we might be OK."

Well, maybe not, it turns out. Lewiston-Porter is projecting $39.8 million in revenues for 2014-15, a figure not including an increase to the district's tax levy. But it does include $500,000 from fund balance. It doesn't seem like much, but Roser said that money will need to come from underspending this year's budget.

Because the district has been strapped for cash for more than a year, there was no savings entering this year. To include $500,000 from savings for next year, the district will need to find it this year.

"If we haven't underspent our budget this year by $500,000, we're in trouble," Roser said. "We feel we did pretty good, but the revenues need to show up like we think. And we can't have any more mishaps in state aid."

Assuming the best case scenario, which would include some sort of resolution to the state's Gap Elimination Adjustment – a financial response to the multibillion-dollar state deficits following the 2008 housing and stock markets crashes where the state took money from aid runs to all districts – the district might be able to avoid an increase in its tax levy.

Property taxes will again come under the spotlight if the best case doesn't develop for any reason, though. The district is allowed under the state's property tax cap to increase its total amount collected by 4.42 percent, which would bring in slightly more than $1 million in revenue.

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