Niagara Gazette


May 18, 2014

A lot on the line with local school district budgets

Niagara Gazette — After months of buildup, it's decision day for voters in all three local school districts Tuesday. From modest spending increases to jumping tax levies, this year has almost everything.

And for one of the districts, it could be do-or-die in terms of some vital programming.

Niagara-Wheatfield voters have to make a particularly difficult choice this year, as district administrators propose a $64.6 million spending plan for next year. Completing it, they proposed a tax levy increase of 4.8 percent, a figure equal to the maximum allowed under the state's threshold.

It's the third consecutive year school board members have proposed a budget paired with a tax increase larger than 2 percent and third year programming, staff and services have been put on the chopping block. Officials maintain the reason is a lack of funding from Albany, not from taxpayers. Unfortunately, they say, it's the taxpayers who will once again have to pick up the unwanted bill.

On the chopping block this year is several sports, six elementary teaching positions, a swath of high school electives, and much of the non-mandated music education. Music performance groups, however, won't be part of the cuts, Superintendent Lynn Fusco said.

Polls are once again located at the district's high school, 2292 Saunders Settlement Road, Lewiston.

Other Lewiston residents, and those living in the town of Porter, have a much different situation to consider. Lewiston-Porter officials proposed a $41.2 million plan to taxpayers last month, accompanied by a 3.95 percent levy jump for next year.

There, officials originally suffered from a lack of funding from the state, much like Niagara-Wheatfield, but were able to realize enough revenues to keep the tax request below the state mandated threshold. It's a change of pace from last May, when the school board at the time attempted to override the property tax cap unsuccessfully.

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