May 15--The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District would endure no cuts to programs, activities or staffing in its proposed $151.8 million budget
The Depew School District balanced its $40.8 million budget using early retirement incentives and the elimination of 8.4 full-time positions.
And the Springville-Griffith Institute School District is proposing a $36.16 million budget that includes a new curriculum coordinator position and a kindergarten teacher but eliminates a special-education teacher and special-education teacher's aide.
Next Tuesday, voters in suburban school districts across the region will be heading to the polls to decide on their district's budgets, propositions and who will represent them on the school boards. Several school boards met earlier this week to present their spending plans.
Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda
As recently as February, Ken-Ton faced a $7.3 million budget deficit but has been able to pare that down thanks to revisions to employee benefits, savings through retirements and the use of $9.8 million from its fund balance and reserves.
The budget also absorbs a loss of $5.8 million in state aid due to a funding tool known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment and increased mandated pension costs totaling $1.1 million, said Gerald Stuitje, assistant superintendent for finance.
The 2014-15 budget contains a 2.75 percent increase in the tax rate, but homeowners -- like most others in the region -- would see that money returned to them in the fall in the form of a rebate check thanks to the state's new two-year property tax freeze credit.
Property taxes on a $100,000 home in the town would rise by $57 to $2,130 under the proposed budget. "If you're that $100,000 homeowner, you've got a $57 increase in your tax bill, and the state will send you a check, in October probably, for $57," Stuitje said.
To continue its eligibility in 2015-16, the district would need to have a state-approved efficiency plan in place to achieve savings.
The vote on the budget and for two seats on the School Board will take place next Tuesday in Hoover Middle School, 249 Thorncliff Road, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
No one spoke during an opportunity for two-way public comment with the board on the budget. But during a general public comment, four parents from Hamilton Elementary spoke out -- sometimes tearfully -- against the transfer of Hamilton's principal, Michael Huff, to Hoover Elementary. Hamilton is slated to close in the 2016-17 school year along with Roosevelt Elementary and Kenmore Middle School as part of a restructuring.
"He is the heart and soul of the school and the only person who can get the students through the difficult closing coming in the near future," one woman said.
But Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro explained that Huff was transferred to fill a vacancy at Hoover and would have been transferred there anyway once Hamilton closes because he has seniority.
Sixteen people -- three-quarters of them school district officials -- showed up Tuesday night for Depew's annual budget hearing with one week before the vote.
Superintendent Jeffrey Rabey presented the Board of Education's proposed $40.8 million spending plan, which includes a 1 percent tax levy increase, meeting the district's cap. The spending plan represents a 5.94 percent increase over this year's budget.
Rabey explained that about $4.7 million in budget reductions have been made since 2010, but class sizes haven't increased, and programs have been retained. District enrollment has steadily declined from 2,367 students in 2003 to 1,813 this year.
He added that the budget was balanced using several methods, including an early-retirement incentive for six Depew Transportation Employees Association and Civil Service Employees Association workers and the elimination of 8.4 full-time positions.
District residents also will be voting for two School Board members. Two candidates filed petitions to run for the three-year terms. Barbara Staebell, senior staff assistant at the University at Buffalo, has been on the board for 13 years and has two adult children. Newcomer Donna Kapinos is a stay-at-home mother with two children in the district.
Voters also will consider two other propositions, including whether to allow the district to purchase new buses using a reserve fund and to sell the Terrace Education Center. Officials stressed that the bus purchases would have no effect on the tax levy.
The annual School Board election and budget vote will take place from noon to 9 p.m. next Tuesday in the library at Cayuga Heights Elementary School, 1780 Como Park Blvd. A brief meeting will follow to verify results.
A resident urged more publicity for students in the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District and questioned the need for a new position in the 2014-15 budget Tuesday night.
"We don't do a good job telling the world what great things we have here," said Julie Francisco, who added students' achievements should be more heavily promoted.
She also asked about the need for a proposed curriculum coordinator, a new position proposed in the budget. A pair of Board of Education candidates, Michael Connors and Janine Caimano, provided the only other comments during the budget hearing and regular meeting in the high school's library.
Connors asked about the cost of grant writers and the transportation stipend. Caimano inquired about the need for a curriculum coordinator.
In the budget, voters will see a rise in the tax levy, the amount collected in taxes, from $14.7 million to $15.2 million, which complies with the state's tax levy increase cap.
The spending plan eliminates a special-education teacher and special-education teacher's aide. Besides the curriculum coordinator, the budget creates a kindergarten teaching position at Springville Elementary School.
Spending would rise from $34,910,953 to $36,135,708.
Seven candidates are competing for three seats in the election. The seats carry three-year terms that will start July 1.
The budget vote and board election are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. next Tuesday in the high school, Colden Elementary School and Collins Center Fire Hall.
News Staff Reporter Joseph Popiolkowski and Suburban Correspondents Lisa A. Johnson and Dave Dahl contributed to this story.
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