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UPDATE: Spending down, tax levy up in proposed N-W budget

by jmaloni
Thu, Apr 14th 2011 03:15 pm

•••Post-deadline update: The Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education will hold an open special meeting to present and adopt its final 2011-12 budget at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 15.

The board originally intended to adopt the budget on Wednesday, but delayed after more than 100 residents turned out. Many objected to cuts of 24 teaching positions and a tax hike included in the budget.

Superintendent Carl Militello volunteered to cut his own salary by 3 percent.•••


 by Susan Mikula Campbell

A 2011-12 budget proposal was brought to the Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education on Wednesday evening featuring a 9.5 percent decrease in spending, but a 2.9 percent increase in the total tax levy.

The budget proposal, which went to the board after the Tribune had gone to press, was to be voted on by the board that night.

Total spending in the 2010-11 budget was $69,194,543. Spending for 2011-12 was proposed to decrease to $62,935.676.

This year's total school tax levy was $26,566,488. The proposed tax levy for the upcoming school year increased to  $27,336,916.

Due to state aid cuts and rising prices, school districts across the state are struggling to cut budgets and keep tax increases under control.

At the April 6 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Carl Militello showed a list of planned spending cuts that included all field trips, cuts in elementary, middle school and high school clubs (keeping those that affect the entire building), modified sports, seven department chairs at the middle and high school level, library materials, professional development, conferences for staff, the Twilight program for students in danger of dropping out, early morning transportation, summer school and more.

The budget, expected to be approved by the board, goes to public vote on May 17.

At the same time, voters will choose someone to fill the final year of Lori Pittman's term on the school board and who will fill the three-year seats of current Board President William Conrad, Vice President Michele Hoerner and board member Samuel Monin. Their terms expire June 30.

For those interested in running for seats on the board, nominating petitions, which must contain 25 signatures of supporters, can be picked up at the school district's administration office at 6700 Shultz St., Bergholz, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. They are due back by 5 p.m. Monday, April 18.

In other matters at the April 7 board meeting:

•The board gave final approval to the appointment of longtime boys and girls track coach Richard Bartha after two residents asked why there was a delay in the appointment. The retired teacher's appointment was included on the superintendent's proposed personnel appointments in November, but was never formally approved by the board.

"He's kind of being jerked around. He's been coaching here quite a while ... 50 years," said resident Mike Murawski, adding that Bartha was his coach in high school and is well regarded across the state. "If he is indeed approved for this position, I think this board owes him an apology for stringing him along for six months."

Board member Monin made a motion to approve Bartha's appointment, which the rest of the board approved.

No comment was offered on why the appointment was held up, due to it being a personnel issue.

"In my opinion enough is enough. It's time to settle it," Monin said after the meeting.

•Resident Russell Brumby suggested the board might save money for taxpayers by reducing staff and increasing class sizes. In college, he pointed out, students might have to sit in classes as large as 200 and "they are lost." He added that "too many people are doing busy work" in the district and that there are too many administrators.

•The board offered congratulations to high school student Danielle Kendall, a tuba player in the N-W Symphonic Band, who was selected to play with the U.S. Navy Band at Shea's on March 28. Congratulations also went to the Twilight students who obtained a 91 percent passing rate on the January Regents exams. Also congratulated were the Area I Skills USA winners: Cory Grenzy in auto manufacturing technology and Marco Notaro in project based engineering.

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