Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 10, 2013

N-W talks cash

Niagara Gazette — Niagara-Wheatfield School Board member Christopher Peters has a fear he shared with a captive audience during the board's latest meeting Wednesday.

He said despite the school's financial and operational outlooks for the 2013-14 school year, he's worried the budget he and his colleagues are due to adopt in the next few weeks will fail when voters hit the polls May 21.

Though not finished, the plan is expected to continue the district's recent trend of hitting taxpayers hard in the pocketbook. Officials are still preparing to present a 5.91 percent increase to the district's tax levy, the figure the district cannot exceed under this year's property tax threshold.

But Peters' fear is rooted in a lack of attention from the general public, with small crowds listening to the meetings and very few taking in what's talked about via the district's online streaming option.

"Nobody's here to get the message," Peters said. "This is the one time people get to vote on their own tax increase. And who votes for their own taxes to go up? Normally, it's some politicians deciding to just increase taxes. It's just a shame they attached this to quite possibly the one good thing in people's lives, which is your child's education."

Planners are still dealing with a financial shortfall in preparing the 2013-14 spending plan, even after New York state adopted its budget last week. The district received approximately $300,000 additional state aid in the actual formulas compared to what Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented in February's executive budget.

But the extra money isn't good enough locally, as officials have to close a $1.4 million – a number developed based on Cuomo's proposal – gap. Coming off last year's more than 60 layoffs, the gap could be devastating a second year in a row.

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