Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 25, 2013

Niagara-Wheatfield adopts budget with 5.91 percent tax increase, sparing kindergarten, sports and music - for now

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — If the budget doesn’t cut kindergarten, music or sports, three non-mandated programs the district explored chopping to balance its budget, where did the $1 million come from? A combination of teacher retirements, reductions and layoffs will balance the plan, according to interim business manager Richard Hitzges.

Hitzges said the district can find about $415,000 in retirement savings alone, including eliminating one teaching position through attrition. Also cut is the ninth grade level of popular high school program Project Lead the Way, a pre-engineering sequence of classes designed to prepare students for college classes.

Instituted in 2010-11, Project Lead the Way is expected to save $79,000, eliminating one teacher.

There will also be two elementary level and the equivalent of two middle school teachers also eliminated, along with six teacher aides, three cuts to the transportation department staff, a cleaner and several monitors.

“The budget is a balanced budget,” Hitzges told the board before it was adopted unanimously, 7-0.

With a budget finalized at the board level, all that’s left is for the public to vote. Many of the board members called on the public attending the meeting to cast a ballot and convince their neighbors and friends to do the same.

Board officials said a failure to pass the budget would put all non-mandated programs, including kindergarten and sports, on the potential chopping block. Sabo said there’s a list of six items the district can turn to, including those areas, to close what could be an additional $2 million.

Board member Christopher Peters said the public has the ability to decide what the board cannot.

“We need people to show up in droves,” Peters said. “You need to go and vote. We can’t affect a lot of this budget. We don’t have that much affect. About 80 percent of our budget is contractual. All we can do is play the cards that are dealt to us. The state’s put us in this position, we don’t have a choice.”

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.

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