Revised plan reflects district spending cuts
By Terry Duffy
Come Tuesday, May 16, North Tonawanda School District property owners will be voting on a pared down $73.491 million spending plan for the 2017-18 school year.
Commenting on the revised school district budget, NT Superintendent of Schools Gregory J. Woytila said that, thanks to a number of cutbacks instituted over past months by the North Tonawanda Board of Education and school administrators, the budget remains well within the district's calculated tax cap of 1.48 percent for 2017-18. While reflecting a $1.176 million increase over last year's $73.315 million plan, the latest budget numbers actually show $765,000 in reductions for 2017-18. As such, the budget's impact on the cap stands at 1.25 percent. But factoring in the recent increase in assessments seen on North Tonawanda School District properties, its actual cap impact to homeowners is 0.97 percent.
"The district and School Board have been hard at work developing a budget for the community to approve," Woytila said. "Over the last two years, the School Board was able to keep increases at zero percent and at a half percent over those years. Right-sizing and selling or renting district buildings has helped the district stay the course of keeping taxes in check while growing program.
"This year's budget will be below the tax cap limit again as the board stays committed to keeping taxes in check. The district's tax cap calculation is 1.48 percent, but the BOE is well below this at only 1.25 percent. Because of projected increases in assessments in the district, taxpayers will see an increase in their taxes of only 0.97 percent. This will be the fifth year in a row the district was able to stay below the tax cap limit."
Woytila said that, by the numbers, the projected tax levy on a district property owner would be $22.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 2017-18. Its impact on a residence assessed at $100,000 stands at $21.49 per $1,000. But factoring in State Property Tax Relief and Property Tax Freeze programs (STAR), availed to districts such as North Tonawanda that reduce their tax levies, those numbers will drop even further.
For a NT district property owner with STAR, the impact on a $100,000 household will be $17.95 per $1,000. And for those with Enhanced STAR, that number will be $13.77.
Woytila credited the district's efforts at paring a number of costs. Under the revised plan, the following have seen decreases from the district's initial $74 million plus budget: staff retirements, no replacement - $110,000; staff retirements, with replacement - $100,000; elementary reductions - $200,000; high school reductions - $40,000; BOCES reductions - $50,000, or 5 percent; supplies and materials reductions - $35,000, or 5 percent; administrative/budget services reductions - $80,000; equipment reductions - $75,000 or 25 percent; and capital outlay eliminations - $75,000.
Woytila and School Board President Michele Golding pointed out the district has been able to realize the reductions thanks to its structuring of classes. The North Tonawanda District campus now includes an intermediate building for grades 4-6 and a combined middle school/high school campus that "further improves our ability to provide quality instruction in an efficient manner," said Woytila.
"In this budget, we make the necessary cuts due to decreasing enrollment, but keep intact the improvements we have made to student offerings and sports programs," Golding said. "Transparency to our taxpayers, both businesses and homeowners, is paramount to our agenda. We encourage our citizens to be part of the solution to move our district to the top of the list of 'Best Schools in Western New York,' " she said.
The budget vote and School Board elections will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the district's Alumni and Student Activity Center, 405 Meadow Drive. Five candidates will vie for two open seats on the BOE. Elected members will serve a three-year term from July 1 to June 30, 2020.