Niagara Gazette

February 14, 2013

Wilson School District looking to exceed tax cap

BY JOE OLENICK
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — WILSON –– In an effort to deal with a big deficit, the Wilson School District is looking at a budget that would override the tax levy cap.

Wilson doesn’t have a projected cap yet, but the 2012-13 school year budget’s was 2.7 percent. Districts will report their projected tax levy limits to the state education department by March 1.

Under New York’s tax cap law, school districts can only raise taxes by a limited percentage that is figured out using a formula. But overriding the cap is allowed under the state law, but would require 60 percent of residents saying yes on the May 21 budget vote. Otherwise the budget fails, even with a majority vote.

Niagara Wheatfield was the only local district that succeeded at exceeding the cap last year, albeit with a second vote in June.

Business Administrator John Montesanti said Wilson is looking at raising the tax levy by 7 percent, to a total of $11.65 million in taxes. The current projected budget of $24.3 million would also need $11.3 million in state aid, which is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s projected budget. About $650,000 will be used from reserves.

But nothing is in stone, as many things in the budget are still uncertain. A budget won’t be adopted until April.

“These numbers are in flux, they change daily,” Montesanti said.

The district’s administration was asked by the school board to find $200,000 in cuts. Superintendent Michael Wendt said the team was strongly against making more cuts to staffing or programming, as it would affect students directly.

Raising the tax levy by 7 percent was unacceptable to resident William Smith. He said the board needed to look for more cuts.

“We as taxpayers don’t have any more money,” Smith said. “You’ve got to get this down to 2 percent.”

Montesanti added there was $230 million that Albany had not decided what to do with. It was possible Wilson could see more state aid than what was projected by Cuomo,

he said.

In other district news, board members were looking at an additional polling place in Ransomville for the May 21 budget vote. President Timothy Kropp said Wilson was legally unable to do so, because the district would need at least 300 voters in each polling place. There was no guarantee Ransomville, which is where W.H. Stevenson Elementary School is located, would have 300 voters.

Wilson School District residents vote at the high school on Lake Street. Kropp said Wilson averages 600 voters for each budget vote.