by Janet Schultz
Facing a possible $863,000 shortfall after making budget modifications for 2012-13 and the unknowns with state aid, the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education received public comments that included praise for them in providing students with an outstanding music program and encouraging them to continue funding that program.
Diane Christman thanked the board for what the music program has done for her son. Following her accolades and requests to maintain the program in the future, senior high school students Sara DiFiore and Kaitlyn Sorenson also thanked the board and explained that music was a large part of their lives and a reason why they are successful students.
In his budget presentation, Superintendent Christopher Roser explained that the goal of the board is to develop the budget with the new tax threshold and maintain existing programs. In the past five years the towns of Lewiston and Porter have seen little and no increase in the tax levy. In fact in 2009 the district provided a 2.74 percent reduction in the tax levy.
"What the board couldn't have known at that time was what would happen in the state in the future," he said.
Had Lew-Port raised or maintained the tax levy, they may have been in better shape at this time.
"There are no easy decisions," Roser went on, adding that, during his time as superintendent, the district has had no layoffs and has worked to preserve programs, staff and classroom size.
"We are now hitting a wall," he explained. "I'm not sure what we are going to do next."
At this point, the proposed 2012-13 budget is at $40,419,194 and the modified budget is at $41,282,306, giving them a gap of $863,112. The $40.4 million budget figure includes a 3.51 tax levy increase, the cap set by New York state without asking for a special vote. It is $186,000 more than the 2011-12 spending plan. The unknown is how much Lew-Port will receive in state aid, which would help make up some of that shortfall.
The board will hold another budget workshop meeting within the next two weeks and Roser will be meeting with union officials to discuss possible solutions.
To assist the board in budget planning, Michael Casale, deputy commissioner for Niagara County Business Development, presented census information for the towns of Porter and Lewiston. His report shows that Niagara County has lost 1.5 percent of its population from 2000 to 2010; but that the population is stabilizing and in some areas, rising slightly.
There is a steady decrease in those under the age of 5 and in 5 to 9 years of age group; but the large number of the baby boom generation may be the cause along with the fact that families are having less children.
There is also a slight decline in ages 10 to 14 and 15 to 19. But again for Lewiston and Porter, the decline is small.
The population for the Town of Lewiston is at 16,262 and for Porter 6,771.
Roser noted that in 2011-12 there were 125 kindergarten students and the same are registered for 2012-13. Thus Lew-Port must plan on the same number of students in this budget process as in the past.
In other board business:
•As part of Music in Schools Month (March) the board recognized music students who were named to All State and All Region musical groups. These students are the "best of the best" in choral and orchestra ensembles.
•The board approved a resolution to participate in the Cooperative Technology Power Management/End Point Management program conducted by BOCES of Western New York/WNYRIC. The program recognizes the importance of energy conservation by using software that will allow the control and distribution of computer power at a lower cost and reduces the electricity used by computers by automatically powering off the computers at night and weekends.
•The board approved the retirements of Sharon George, math; Shirley Hunt, teaching assistant and Bridgett A. Harrison, teaching assistant; all effective June 12.
The board also approved a resolution on the details of its annual meeting. The annual budget vote and Board of Education election will be held 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Community Resource Center on Tuesday, May 15.
The annual public hearing on the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 8. The regular board meeting will be moved to Tuesday, May 29, at 6:30 p.m. All meetings and hearings will be held in the Community Resource Center.
Petitions for nominations of a candidate for the Board of Education are available now and must be filed by 5 p.m. Monday, April 16. Twenty-five signatures of qualified voters are required. The drawing for candidate's positions will be held Tuesday, April 17.
Voter propositions must be submitted no later than March 31 or March 26, depending on the proposition's content.
Qualified voters must be registered either with the Niagara County Board of Elections, or with the district, in order to vote.
The board appointed Elizabeth Bajor, district clerk, as chief elections officer and Carol Force, assistant elections officer.