by Janet Schultz
The Niagara-Wheatfield School district will try again for a budget approval from voters from noon to 8 p.m. June 19 at the Adult Learning Center in the high school.
Interim School Superintendent Kerin Dumphrey last week presented the residents of the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District with a second budget proposal for the 2012-13 school year.
The first budget was defeated by voters on May 15.
The revised budget comes in at $60,518,987, $1.2 million less than the $61.7 budget, with a 9.9 percent tax levy, taken to the voters earlier. The tax levy would increase by 4.89 percent.
This revised budget calls for $431,000 in unassigned dollars to reduce the tax levy from the first proposed 9.9 percent to 4.89 percent, along with reduction in expenses in community education, legal fees, athletics and music. There will be reductions in personnel through a wage freeze for non-union employees, furloughing 30 cleaners from July 1 to Aug. 3 and reducing the number of lunch monitors. The district is eliminating the purchase of new buses and eliminating a floor refinishing project.
Those proposals will save the district $1,261,448 with 51 cuts to the budget for a total reduction of $5,355,811 from 2011-12.
Dumphrey emphasized that, if voters turn down this new budget, $1.3 million more in cuts will be necessary. Those cuts would drastically affect class size, athletics and music, and would reduce kindergarten to half day.
While previous board meetings have been filled to capacity, this meeting saw few residents attending and even a lesser amount speaking.
Rosemary Warren continues to question the board on the investigation of "missing fund balance" and raised a concern over the district being run by an interim superintendent, temporary financial officer and the laying off of the assistant superintendent for curriculum.
"It seems to me that the district will be dysfunctional in September," said Warren.
Russell Brumby brought up the idea of "paying to play" for athletics. He also raised a concern about the size of the classrooms increasing and said some teachers may not be able to handle classes that have extra students.
"We have excellent art programs, and I want to see them continue," said Maureen Kaus, a former board member. "We invested in our buildings and our programs, and we are investing in our children."
"Teachers make the biggest difference to kids," said Anthony Castillilo. "Public education has been the bridge between the average person and having the ability to move beyond the current status in life. 'Pay to play' means that if you can afford it you can play, but the pubic school is the place to give a child the chance to play. I'm worried we are moving back to all for the dollar."
The increase in the tax levy would mean an estimated tax rate of $27.70 per $1,000 assessed value for Town of Niagara residents, a $1.29 increase; $23.42 ($1.09 increase) for Town of Wheatfield; $19.73 (69 cent increase) for Town of Lewiston; and $16.22 (75 cent increase) for Town of Cambria.
In other board business, the district's concert choir, jazz band, jazz ensemble and symphonic band were recognized for their performance at the Dixie Classic in Richmond, Va. It was noted that each group received a superior rating, and that the school received a Gold with Distinction award.
Ken Kuriscak, jazz ensemble director, explained the group performed at the highest level and received a superior rating.
Director Christine Riederer announced that the symphonic band performed college-level music and received a superior rating. The group also received Gold with Distinction for those that go above and beyond in their performance.
"I see the tradition continuing with such great musicians coming up," said Riederer.
Students recognized at the meeting included Jenna Osetkowski and Ryanne Dwyer for being selected to the All-State Conference Symphonic Band; and Jennifer Johnson, Jared Franciosa, Kacy Carbone, Emily Belote, Jack Buddenhagen and Danielle Crocoll for their outstanding solo performances at All-State competition. Based on those scores they are now recommended to next year's All-State Conference. Selection will be made over the summer.
•The board was expected to meet in executive session June 13 to discuss the search for a new superintendent.