Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

June 18, 2013

Lew-Port budget passed second time around

Relief. Appreciative.

Just a pair of words used by Lewiston-Porter officials after Tuesday's budget vote results were revealed. The district's $39.6 million spending plan was approved by voters in overwhelming fashion, 1,663 to 993, to avoid contingency status for 2013-14.

"We are relieved," School board President Jodee Riordan said. "There's not a lot to celebrate in this budget, but we're relieved it passed. And there was great turnout, which was nice to see."

Lew-Port's spending plan was the only one in Niagara County education which proposed a spending reduction from this year to next going back to May, but voters disapproved of it during the initial vote largely due to a massive tax levy increase above and beyond the state's property tax levy threshold.

The budget passed Tuesday features a decrease of 3.95 percent from the levy increase that was originally proposed. The new amount is below the state's levy limit in the district. The adopted spending plan reflected several uncomfortable cuts to student programs, including modified sports, after-school assistance programs and more than 30 staff positions eliminated or their hours reduced.

Despite the positive vote, Superintendent R. Christopher Roser was sullen.

"I know I have to do things different next year," he said. "It's a terrible budget. I'm happy for what we will be able to retain, but it's lean. There's nothing in there to speak of. There's almost nothing left."

Much of the district's financial problems stem from a lack of state-financed revenues. In 2008, then-Gov. David Paterson attempted to fix a multi-billion dollar state budget shortfall by reducing the amount of money it supplies in aid to its roughly 700 districts.

Each year the reduction has remained, despite a change at the top to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration. Lewiston-Porter itself has lost more than $1 million in foundation aid, the most common aid districts receive, in each of the last four years. Next year remains the same story.

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