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Budget review and ‘Meet the Candidates’ on May 8
√ BOE candidates discuss goals for district
By Terry Duffy
The Lewiston-Porter School District will hold two meetings of interest to residents on Monday, May 8, beginning with 6 p.m. budget hearing, as the district presents its proposed $54,539,312 spending plan for the 2023-24 school year.
The district will then hold a “Meet the Candidates” session as it introduces this year’s slate for open seats on the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education. Candidates include incumbent Danielle M. Mullen, a four-year board member and current president; and newcomers Jack G. Waugaman III and Joseph J. Palermo.
Both events will take place in the Lew-Port Community Resource Center, located at the north end of the campus at 4061 Creek Road.
Michael F. Lewis, Ph.D., assistant superintendent of administrative services, said the district’s $54.539 million budget proposal represents an increase of $1,475,714, or 2.71%, over the adopted 2022-23 spending plan of $53,117,598. This reflects a 6.40% increase in the consumer price index.
The budget addresses $38,721,086 in spending under the program component, $9,578,208 in the capital component, and $6,294,018 in the administrative component.
Lewis presented a “budget at a glance” review, which offers a look inside the numbers.
“It’s a glance at Lew-Port’s categories and larger numbers,” he said.
Broken down, the budget covers 16 categories. It leads off with $13,670,314 in spending that is delegated to teaching/instruction. Included are salaries for Lew-Port’s teachers, aides and monitors, plus supplies and materials.
Next, a total of $10,985,634 is assigned to employee benefits. This includes the district’s teacher retirement system, employee retirement system, plus Lewiston-Porter’s health insurance, Social Security, worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance costs.
Other higher number expenses include the district’s special programs, budgeted at $7,280,135. This includes such areas as salaries for Lew-Port’s special education teachers and aides, as well as supplies and materials. A total of $5,691,321 is budgeted for district capital debt and bond payments. This includes Lew-Port’s outstanding bonds and bond anticipation notes principal and interest payments associated with its capital projects.
Lewiston-Porter’s transportation costs total $3,728,385 and include such areas as contracted services, fuel, bus monitors and other costs associated with the transporting of district students.
Still more numbers include $3,343,549 for central services, which includes costs for district building operations, maintenance, printing and mailing; $2,683,775 for special items, including costs for district insurance, assessments, BOCES administrative charges and organizational fees; and $2,243,153, for such items as instructional administration and staff development.
Also, $1,736,047 for pupil services, covering expenses for such areas as guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers, plus extracurricular and interscholastic athletics; $993,543 for instructional media, covering such areas as librarians, aides, computer technology salaries, supplies and materials; and $845,000 toward occupational education, for career and technical education programs at Orleans Niagara BOCES.
Broken down, the remaining costs include $473,619 for the office of finance, covering expenses for assistant superintendent and secretary salaries, supplies and materials; $306,224 for district legal, personnel and records expenses; $290,896 for central administration, covering the salaries for the superintendent of schools and secretary plus supplies and materials costs; $153,594 for the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education, covering BOE membership and required training costs, the district clerk plus supplies and materials for regular BOE meetings and the annual district meeting; and $55,000 for transfers to federal aid, covering general fund expenses related to special education summer school.
As far as its impact on property owners in the Lewiston-Porter School District, which includes the towns of Lewiston and Porter, plus the villages of Lewiston and Youngstown, Lewis said the proposed levy to support Lew-Port’s $54.593 million plan would total $29,608,316, an increase of $764,365 over what the district levy total supported in 2022-23.
He went on to present the district’s 2023-24-tax rate estimates.
“What everyone cares about is the proposed property tax rate,” Lewis said.
For Lewiston property owners with an assessed value of $150,000, the proposed rate would be $27.51 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 54 cents over the 2022-23 rate of $26.97. Estimated taxes for 2023-24 on a $150,000 assessed property with the Basic Enhanced STAR exemption would be $3,644.33, an increase of $71.93.
For Porter property owners (including Youngstown), again with an assessed value of $150,000, the proposed rate is $23.91 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 47 cents over the current rate of $23.44. Estimated taxes for 2023-24 on a $150,000 assessed property, again with the Basic enhanced STAR exemption, would be $3,113.08, an increase of $61.19.
Lewis said changes in the Basic STAR, as well as variances in the equalization rates, can impact increases and decreases for both towns.
He provided a true tax rate comparison at 100% equalization rate of $14.58 per $1,000, an increase of 28 cents for both towns. At present, properties in both Lewiston and Porter fall under varying tax assessments, with many below the 100% threshold, thus the difference.
“It needs to be incredibly clear that these are estimates,” he said. “And they are subject to the towns assessing their property, not the school district.”
“It’s just a point of clarification, because oftentimes a community truly doesn’t recognize that a district doesn’t say how they’re taxed. It’s a function of the towns,” Lewis said.
As noted earlier, the May 8 session will also feature an opportunity for residents to meet candidates vying for seats on the BOE.
Mullen, who brings more than a decade of service in various roles with Lewiston-Porter, said her many experiences have been “helpful in understanding the priorities our families, schools and community.”
“I am dedicated to helping ensure each child in this district can reach their full potential by utilizing resources thoughtfully,” Mullen said. “I enjoy listening and working with our community, while being involved in the process of making responsible and pragmatic fiscal decisions for all of our taxpayers.”
Waugaman, a retired supervisor special agent with Homeland Security investigations, is a Gulf War-era infantry U.S. Marine veteran and member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Downriver Post 7487. He holds bachelors and masters-level degrees in criminal justice and criminal justice administration from Niagara University.
A 25-year district resident, he and his wife have three children who are Lewiston-Porter graduates, and their youngest child attends the Lew-Port Primary Education Center. Waugaman is a frequent visitor to BOE sessions, and an active community member at Lewiston-Porter District Safety Committee meetings.
“Based on my life experience, military service, education and law enforcement career, I believe my leadership traits, skills and qualifications are well matched with the role and responsibilities of the Board of Education,” he said. “The referenced education, traits and experience and skills are why I believe I qualify to serve. …
“I have a vested interest in the continuing success of the Lewiston-Porter CSD.”
Palermo is a member of the Youngstown Police Department and a retired detective with the Niagara Falls Police Department. He has two children currently attending Lew-Port and a son who graduated in 2021.
“I believe my law enforcement experience is a valuable asset to offer the Lewiston-Porter community,” he said. “Being in law enforcement requires you to be a critical thinker. I am able to listen to all sides of an issue and make an effective decision that would be in the best interest of the school board, administration, faculty, staff, students and parent. I also possess communication, social and problem-solving skills that I believe would be very useful as a Board of Education member.”
The annual budget vote and election will be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, in the Community Resource Center. Absentee ballot applications are available by contacting District Clerk Marisa Barile at 716-286-7266 or [email protected].
For more information, visit www.lew-port.com.