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 — "It's a necessary evil to keep all of our programs for the children in tact," Nick Vilardo said. "It's something we have to do to give our kids the best education possible."

Under the state's property tax cap law, the district would be able to raise its levy by 3.77 percent before needing a 60 percent majority approval to bypass the law. However, Hyland has expressed concerns the district's cap the next few years may be zero as high-cost increases like the state's pension system are anticipated to level off or decrease.

What does the budget proposal mean to the district's students? If the casino revenues are sorted out through mediation by June, there would only be a reduction of five teachers – four through attrition – and seven total employees. Popular programs like summer camps and modified sports would receive full funding for next year, while the district's school resource officer would remain at the high school for another year.

But if the casino revenues remain tied up in litigation or the district is unable to receive assistance dealing with a massive increase in payments to the Teacher Retirement System – projected to increase $2 million from current year levels – those programs could get the axe and more teachers could find themselves in the unemployment line.

"This district has done just about everything it can to control costs," Board Member Russell Petrozzi said. "Unfortunately, our state officials haven't done anything themselves. They keep passing the burden on to the local taxpayers because they don't have the guts to do it themselves. It's unfortunate the timing is bad, but it needs to be done."

What the tax increase will not affect is the capital improvement project voters approved this past September. That project, which officials promised would not cause an increase in taxes, is not part of the $124 million proposal.

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