Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

April 29, 2013

Lew-Port superintendent, some board members not keen on trying to exceed tax cap.

Niagara Gazette — There’s two different lines of thinking emerging on the current Lewiston-Porter school board.

Last week, the seven-member board voted to adopt its 2013-14 spending plan, which was decided would increase its tax levy by 5.5 percent. The number exceeds the district’s tax levy threshold set by a state formula and will require a supermajority of 60 percent of district voters to be approved.

When school board President Jodee Riordan called for a roll call ballot, the first response was a bit shocking. Jerome Andres said no.

“I thought (Superintendent) Chris Roser’s initial budget was, while tough, reasonable,” Andres said after the vote. “Strategically, I don’t think it was a good idea to go over the cap. We have to ask our voters to also approve a $26 million project and I don’t think it was a good idea.”

Roser’s original plan he recommended included a series of staffing cuts which would leave the district with almost 10 less teaching positions, several support staff cut and one administrator below current levels. It also cut the district’s popular afterschool program used by struggling high school students and modified sports for middle school students, which about half the school’s population participated in this past year.

Roser also provided a list of reinstatements he thought the board could consider, but never endorsed exceeding the tax cap, which stood at 4 percent in the district.

In fact, Roser recommended not exceeding the cap, which is determined by a series of exemptions and calculations which modify the initial 2 percent to which the law holds municipalities. 

Andres wasn’t the only one who sided with Roser’s opinion, as board newcomer Mollie Lucas joined in moments later. The budget was adopted by a 5-2 vote.

While Andres worried about trying to get all of its spending approved, board member Keith Fox was worried about the district’s layoffs. Fox, a retired teacher in the Niagara Falls district, said he couldn’t rightly agree with a budget plan which eliminated as many positions as Roser’s plan.

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