Niagara Gazette

November 28, 2012

Niagara-Wheatfield says no more spending this year

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — In an effort to reduce district costs and increase reserves as much as possible, the Niagara-Wheatfield School Board has put the clamps on any discretionary spending for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year.

During a meeting Wednesday, school board President Seven Sabo said the freeze on non-contractual expenses will only affect those in the district who should have ordered materials by this point in the school year.

"Say a teacher needs to buy $500 of novels for her classroom," he said. "If they haven't bought them by this point, they're not going to."

The recommendation to cut spending off came from the district's internal audit committee, which informed the board of major increases coming its way in terms of contributions for employee and teacher retirement plans, which are expected to skyrocket in 2013-14.

Board member Christopher Peters said the increase could be more than $1 million, bad news for a district which needed a second budget vote to pass a spending plan this past May and initially tried – unsuccessfully – to exceed New York State's tax levy cap.

"We were informed by our internal auditors we will have significant increases in our teacher and employee retirement contributions," he said. "So we just want to get ahead of the game and freeze spending now."

The spending freeze will affect teachers and office workers. Paper products and general supplies will no longer be funded by the district's budget, officials said.

What isn't affected, however, is emergency purchasing, according to Interim Superintendent James Knowles. He said spending on maintenance parts for buses and parts for office equipment necessary to keep technology functioning will still be expensed to district accounts.

"This is affecting supply lines which haven't been used," he said. "To make these purchases now, they'll have to go through the superintendent's office to get approval. It doesn't affect maintenance and emergency spending. These are always available."

In other district news, Knowles gave an update on the status of the district's Annual Professional Performance Review plans submitted to the state Education Department earlier this month. He said the district participated in a conference call with department representatives and was asked to correct minor issues and resubmit the plans for approval.

APPR, designed to provide more rigorous assessments of teachers and administrators throughout the state, is required to grant districts access to millions of federal dollars through President Barack Obama's Race To The Top education initiative.

Knowles said the district will resubmit both the teacher and principal plans Thursday afternoon for approval, he said, before the state's deadline of the end of 2012.