Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 24, 2013

Lew-Port exceeding tax cap as spending plan comes with 5.5 percent levy increase

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — A long, stressful, sometimes confrontational budget planning season has come to a conclusion at Lewiston-Porter. At least, administrators and school board members hope it is.

After months of discussion about spending, taxes and what the rural communities can sustain with declining enrollment, the seven-member school board will seek a tax levy increase which exceeds New York state’s property tax cap threshold.

In adopting its budget, board members said they are giving taxpayers the opportunity to fund educational opportunities Superintendent Christopher Roser initially removed from planned 2013-14 spending. Instead, they’ll decide on whether to accept a 5.52 percent levy increase to fund a $40.0 million plan come May 21.

“Nobody here wants to raise taxes,” school board President Jodee Riordan said before finalizing the budget request Tuesday. “But no one wants to lay off 40 people. We have varying degrees of suck this budget year.”

The board adopted the budget plan in a split, 5-2 vote Tuesday, with both Jerome Andres and Molly Lucas casting the negative ballots.

Under New York’s property tax cap law, instituted in 2012, school districts like Lew-Port receive exemptions and formulaic calculations which can allow for levy increases higher than the law’s 2 percent.

For next year’s spending, Lew-Port was allowed a 4 percent increase under the law. Exceeding it means the district must pass its budget by a 60 percent super majority vote next month.

This means a budget which receives 59 percent in favor would fail at the polls this year, a task Roser was hesitant to endorse since January. He flat out told the board he didn’t recommend it Tuesday, but they bucked his advice and did it anyway.

Why? Several programs Roser’s executive budget proposed cutting were important to many of the board members and important to a large number of children in the district. Modified sports, which costs the district approximately $45,000, was on the chopping block despite 150 middle school students participating. That comes out to roughly half of the school’s students.

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