Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 21, 2013

Proposed Falls School District budget doesn't specify tax increase, expected to be at least 3 percent

Niagara Gazette — Niagara Falls City School District officials are hopeful certain state-controlled issues will make a $124 million spending plan possible for 2013-14.

With the guidance of those officials, the district's school board formally adopted Superintendent Cynthia Bianco's budget proposal and will now wait to see what district residents think when they vote in May.

"The only thing we can do at this point is base it on assumptions," Bianco said of those state issues determining the district's finances. Chief among the concerns is the casino dispute, which is tied up in battles between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The formal adoption by the board solidifies what money the district will cap spending at if the public approves it in May. What isn't made clear is the effect such a spending plan would have on the district's property tax revenue.

Throughout discussions about the budget since February, Bianco and Administrator for School Business Services Timothy Hyland have proposed including a 3 percent increase to the district's tax levy, an unheard of proposition in Niagara Falls for the last 19 years.

But the increase is nowhere to be seen in the proposition residents will be voting on at the polls, though in creating scenarios, leaders were unable to imagine any budget without the additional income.

Before unanimously approving the budget, school board members had an opportunity to speak about the potential tax increase, mostly centered on its necessity outweighing desires for a 20th consecutive year at the same figure.

"I think it's time we took a good look at it," Don King said. "In hindsight, I think I would have rather had a 1 percent increase every year for the last 10 years or so if it would have kept our district from this. Now is the time to look at it realistically."

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