by Susan Mikula Campbell
Niagara-Wheatfield's annual budget vote and school board election will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, in the Adult Learning Center at the high school, 2292 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn.
On the ballot will be the district's proposed budget for 2014-15, a transportation proposition and a choice of six candidates for three open board of education seats.
Running for three-year terms on the board will be Dana Andrews, incumbent Christopher Peters, incumbent Richard Halleen, Gina Terbot, Dr. Daniel Haick and Darren Sneed. Previously announced candidate Danny Maerten recently withdrew from the race for personal reasons.
Proposition 1 is the adoption of the $64,616,391 budget, up from $62,350,050 in 2013-14, or 3.63 percent. The tax levy would increase from $29,951,710 to $31,384,323 or 4.78 percent.
The estimated tax increase per year on a home assessed at $100,000 after applying the $30,000 Basic STAR exemption would be, according to town: Town of Niagara $75.81; Wheatfield $89.84; Lewiston $75.83; Cambria $57.58. Non-homestead rates would increase: Town of Niagara $100.82; Wheatfield $121.58; Lewiston $101.21; Cambria $76.72.
Superintendent Dr. Lynn Fusco said the 4.78 percent tax levy increase is at the district's tax cap. Therefore, residents would be eligible for the tax rebate included in the state budget if they meet the other criteria of the plan.
The proposed budget already has some cuts in staffing and art, music and sports programs, and there could be more if the budget fails. Fusco said the decision of what to do if voters reject the offered budget will be up to the N-W Board of Education.
"It is what it is. It's difficult to make reductions, however, we are where we are financially, and we need to deal with that," Fusco said. "It's difficult times. You can have what you can afford ... that's where we are."
Proposition 2 is to authorize the board to establish a reserve fund, not to exceed $2 million, for financing the acquisition of school buses or transportation vehicles and for improvements to transportation-related buildings.
Anyone can vote who is 18 years of age or older, a United States citizen and a resident of the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District for at least 30 days prior to May 20. Pre-registration is not required to vote, but voters should bring proof of residency (driver's license accepted).
"I think it's important people come out and vote. I hope that everyone eligible to vote does vote. It's always important to exercise that right that we have," Fusco said.
More information on Tuesday's vote and the budget can be found on the school district's website at www.nwcsd.k12.ny.us/.
Budget information correction
The version of Proposition 2, the transportation reserve fund, that was sent to the community by the school district in its recent budget mailer had some errors. Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on this corrected version:
"Whether the Board of Education of the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District shall be authorized and directed to establish a reserve fund pursuant to Education Law §3651 to be known as the Transportation Capital Reserve Fund, for the purpose of financing, in whole or in part, costs associated with the acquisition of school buses or transportation vehicles, the construction and installation of additions, alterations, renovations or other improvements to transportation related buildings and facilities, including related site improvements and/or the acquisition of related machinery, equipment, apparatus or furnishings; with the ultimate amount of such reserve fund not exceeding two million dollars ($2,000,000) plus any accrued earnings on amounts deposited in such reserve fund, the probable existence of said reserve fund being ten (10) years, but with said reserve fund continuing in existence for its stated purpose until liquidated in accordance with New York State Education Law, and the source from which funds shall be obtained for said reserve fund being (a) current and future unappropriated fund balances from the General Fund of the District, as directed by the Board of Education, (b) State aid related to expenditures from said reserve fund, and (c) any other appropriations authorized by the voters from time to time."