Niagara Gazette — With a proposed spending plan firmly in place, attention turned to the three school board candidates running for Niagara-Wheatfield's governing body Wednesday.
Like the 2013-14 budget, set at $62.8 million, voters will determine which two candidates – Lorna Tilley-Peltier, Lori Pittman and Amy Duell (listed by position on the ballot) – will fill two open seats on the board when they vote May 21.
Wednesday, the candidates formally introduced themselves to perspective voters during a half-hour long question-and-answer period. Moderated by Interim Superintendent James Knowles, they discussed taxes, rising costs of the school district and some of the important challenges facing education in the coming years.
"Nobody likes taxes," Tilley-Peltier said. "But one half of the revenue this district receives is taxes. And with state aid being reduced, there's nowhere else for the district to turn. I don't want to see any more programs cut, so I would choose to increase taxes if the district had no other choice."
Each of the candidates made clear the district, going forward, needs to look beyond tax revenues as well. Tilley-Peltier, for example, said the district should investigate the possibility of both receiving a portion of the county's sales tax and getting the state to review its restrictions on pay-to-play, which prohibits districts from putting costs of sports teams on the shoulders of participants.
Duell, who has spent this year on the district's audit committee as a citizen volunteer, said much more attention needs to be paid to the Town of Niagara Industrial Development Agency.
She said the IDA makes decisions concerning taxes which have a great deal of impact on the money the school district receives, including granting Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreements, which can cause some financial hardship to other taxpayers not as fortunate.