by Janet Schultz
There was silence when the vote was announced at Lewiston-Porter Tuesday night. The silence reflected the disappointment of the board and administrators as they learned the 2013-14 tax levy proposition was defeated by a 1,105 to 912 vote.
Lew-Port needed a 60 percent majority "yes" vote to pass the 5.52 percent tax levy. It received 45 percent. The levy exceeded the 4 percent threshold set by the state. The $40,001,368 spending plan was 1.16 percent less than the 2012-13 budget.
"I expected more from the community," said Board President Jodee Riordan. "We got the information out there as clear as possible."
"I'm hurt by it," said Superintendent Christopher Roser. "But they (the voters) spoke, and this is what we have to do."
"We are going to have to do creative things," he continued. "I'm not sure we will be able to maintain that high ranking we have in WNY."
The district now looks at cutting another eight more positions, probably teacher aides, eliminating the afterschool academic assistance program, and modified sports.
"The students that are going to be affected the most are those that are struggling," Roser said. "The extra support that is given them will not be there."
In the five years Roser has been with Lewiston-Porter, the district has managed to raise the tax levy an average of a little more than 1 percent each year, including a year with no tax levy increase.
"This vote speaks volumes, and I don't know how we will get through next year," Roser said. "The quality of education will decline - it's that simple."
The next step in the budget process includes the board relooking and reworking the figures, making additional cuts and bringing the budget back for another vote on June 18. The possibility of contingency is there, but that would mean using the 2012-13 budget and making an additional $1.7 million in cuts. At this point, Roser sees the board putting a 4 percent tax levy increase, which is the state's tax cap for the district, up for vote.
The board wanted to hear from the community and they did. Both Roser and Riordan were pleased with the turnout, even though the budget vote failed. At this point, 90 absentee ballots were not counted, but would not have affected the vote.
"If there is a silver lining, it was the vote to go ahead with the capital construction project," Roser said.
The renovation of the high school and the upgrades to the security system will be covered by state aid through a special capital projects budget and Greenway funds. No taxpayer dollars will be spent. Thus, the overwhelming 1,137 "yes" to 878 "no" vote on proposition No. 2.
"This is really huge," Roser said. "I'm very happy voters could discern between the tax levy and the capital project, which doesn't impact the tax levy."
Regarding the election of board members, all three candidates ran unopposed for three positions. Incumbent Riordan received 1,244 votes, Anna D. Wright, 1,250 and Betty Vandenbosch-Warrick 1,187. Wright and Vandenbosch-Warrick replace outgoing board members Jerome Andres and Jim Sperduti.