Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

January 29, 2013

Lew-Port takes a hit in Cuomo's budget

Niagara Gazette — After Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his executive budget last week, many people saw the increase in general state aid to public school districts as a positive.

Lewiston-Porter Superintendent Christopher Roser, meanwhile, was speechless. And not in a good way.

The district was hit hard by circumstances beyond its control in Cuomo's proposal, including the loss of approximately $300,000 – from its current number of $491,475 to $147,442 – in what is called high-tax aid.

"We don't have an industrial base here and a lot of the property is actually tax exempt," Roser said. "So it's on the property owners. and because our taxes are so heavily based on homeowners in the community, there was a built-in formula to overcome this. But this has all changed and we're getting significantly less aid."

Tax exempt properties within the borders of Lew-Port really is a problem for the district, as the New York Power Authority and no less than five state parks – including Joseph Davis, Artpark and Four-Mile Creek campgrounds – are not responsible for paying money to the district.

Cuomo's third budget proposal, released last week, calls for $21.08 billion in school aid for 2013-14, a 4.4 percent increase from current year levels. But it's hard to see Roser and the Lew-Port family excited.

The lack of joy stems from the overall picture the district faces in planning next year's spending plan. Because not only will the high-tax aid be reduced, but the district is also set to see both transportation funding ($107,000) and BOCES – Board of Cooperative Educational Services – aid ($147,000) will also be slashed, based on district's student population.

Roser said declining enrollment at the district caused the formulas to shift more funding away from the school to other areas, despite increases in spending to both categories through 2012-13.

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