Niagara Gazette — With a week to go before a second — and final — budget vote for the Niagara-Wheatfield School District, administrators and school board members have handed the proposed 2013-14 spending plan off to the taxpayers for approval.
After the original $62.8 million plan failed at the polls in May, school board members and district administrators created a new, $62.4 million budget, while reducing its proposed tax levy increase from 5.9 percent to 4.5 percent
Residents have known this for weeks. They've also known the plan makes significant reductions to an already depleted teaching staff which has seen 112 positions cut since 2011-12 despite somewhat steady enrollment figures. They've seen it eliminates support staff in and out of the classroom, eliminating five teacher aides and several more monitors.
What they hadn't seen was how much those cuts would hurt their pocket books.
According to district calculations provided during Tuesday's mandatory public hearing for the proposed budget, a Town of Niagara homeowner would be charged a tax rate of approximately $28.88 per $1,000 assessed valuation, a $1.24 increase from the current year. Wheatfield homeowners in the district will pay $24.38 per $1,000 value, a $1.05 jump.
Lewiston ($20.58 per $1,000 value) and Cambria ($16.88 per $1,000) residents will see increases of less than $1 per $1,000 value.
Non-homestead taxpayers, which include business property owners, would see their taxes increase by $1.67 per $1,000 value in the Town of Niagara, $1.43 per $1,000 in Wheatfield, $1.19 per $1,000 in Lewiston and $0.97 per $1,000 in Cambria.
"From the residents I've talked to, the reaction has been mostly positive," Board President Steve Sabo said. "They said we've made progress cutting costs. There's also been some concerns. But there's been more positive. They've said we've made it much more palatable for people to accept."
Residents in attendance Tuesday took the opportunity to ask questions of the board and administrators pertaining to the budget proposal. The plan calls for the elimination of one clerical position beyond the cuts to aides and monitors, while eliminating part time social studies, science, English Language Arts and art teachers at the middle school.