By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Board of Education trustees in the Grand Island Central School District Tuesday passed a nearly $61 million budget plan for 2016-17.
In the fourth input session of a budget process that began in November, trustees voted to adopt a budget that calls for a 2.99 percent tax levy increase. The board could have raised the tax levy up to a maximum of 3.4 percent, and trustees considered a proposal from Robert McDow, assistant superintendent for school business and finance, for a 3.24 percent increase.
"To get to the 2.99 percent tax rate increase, we actually increased our reserve allotment from debt service," McDow said.
Trustee Glenn Bobeck moved to approve a $60,977,971 budget with a 2.99 percent tax levy increase. The motion passed, 7-0. The $60,977,971 budget represents a 4.93 percent increase over the total 2015-16 budget.
"I think that when there's an opportunity to give a little bit back to the taxpayers, you should take advantage of it," Bobeck said after the meeting. "We have a maximum, and that doesn't mean necessarily we should raise the taxes by the maximum level that we're allowed to by law."
Bobeck was not asking for a lower levy out of any fear the budget would not pass when it is brought before the voters.
"Our community supports our schools and I'm confident that, as in any other year, that the community will support the schools because that's the type of community Grand Island is," Bobeck said.
The budget would call for an estimated tax rate of $19.61 per thousand, an increase of 57 cents. A typical home assessed at $180,000 would see its tax bill rise from $2,857 to $2,942, or $85.29.
The board met a Tuesday deadline to adopt a budget. A public hearing on the budget will take place May 9, with the budget vote and school board trustee election May 17.
McDow told the board that the state comptroller suggests a reserve between 18-22 percent of the overall budget. He said that with about $13.8 million in reserves in a $61 million budget, "We're very close to what the governor and comptroller are recommending."
In other topics at the meeting:
•In a capital project update, McDow said the state approved phase 3 of the district's capital project plan last week, so the school can begin the next construction phase. The anticipated construction start date is the middle of June, McDow said.
•Also at the meeting, Trustee Donna Tomkins and Board President Lisa Pyc announced their candidacy for re-election. District Clerk Janet Schuster said Dawn Lawley has also filed petitions to run and will make a three-candidate race for two opens seats on the board. Thursday, May 12, a Meet-the-Candidates Night will take place in the high school Professional Development Room. The election is May 17.
•Board of Education President Lisa Pyc noted Diane Lipp, a teacher at Huth Road Elementary School, was chosen for the 2016 Women of Distinction award in the education category by Assemblyman John Ceretto. "This honor is given to women who make a difference in our community. If anyone knows her, she sure does," Pyc said.