Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 21, 2013

Niagara-Wheatfield looking at 6 percent tax hike, still facing $1.4M shortfall

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — All of these items combined may dent the gap, but will still leave the district with cuts to make. Neighboring district Lewiston-Porter is considering cutting 10 teachers in its budget, which would save them about $701,000 next year. For Niagara-Wheatfield to find $1.4 million could be catastrophic to a teaching staff.

"People need to remember it's an economic problem, too," Knowles said. "People tend to move to districts which have good school systems and tend to leave or not even consider moving to at all the districts which don't."

Board member Christopher Peters said the problem the district faces can be traced back to a series of years Niagara-Wheatfield residents had a zero percent increase to taxes, a luxury he said ultimately put the residents in a position to possibly shoulder a 6 percent levy increase one year after a 5 percent increase was passed.

There may be some good news for the district as state lawmakers announced a tentative state budget deal Wednesday that increases spending on education by $1 billion over the present year, when lawmakers added $890 million to school funding from 2011-12 levels. It is not yet known how that will impact local districts.

"I really think we can get out of this hole if we can pass this increase," Peters said. "If you think about it, those three or four years when taxes weren't increased at all hurt us. We're left to clean it up. But I'd rather clean it up now and clean it up fast than let it linger."

Discussing the budget will continue with a special presentation available to the public beginning at 7 p.m. tonight at West Street Elementary.

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