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VOTE SLATED ON 4.29% HIKE IN SPENDING, MORE TAXES

Williamsville voters in May will decide whether they support a 2005-06 school budget that carries a 4.29 percent spending increase.

The School Board last week unanimously approved a $133.15 million spending plan that maintains existing programs and adds 11 teachers to cover enrollment growth.

Superintendent Howard S. Smith has attributed half of the spending increase to hikes in health insurance, utilities, retirement contributions and diesel fuel.

The final version of the state budget will bring the district $100,000 more in aid than school officials had anticipated, for a total of $26.7 million. The extra money will be used to reduce the tax burden, officials said.

The school budget proposal increases the tax levy to $91.7 million. That means the district will collect a total of 5.4 percent more in taxes than it did this year.

Smith said that despite the higher tax levy, the proposed spending plan actually features a tax rate decrease of from 1.49 to 3.29 percent -- a phenomenon attributed to a massive reassessment under way in the Town of Amherst. (Williamsville does not provide a precise tax rate projection, unlike other local districts).

If the town's tax base were steady, district taxes would increase under the new spending plan.

But property assessments in the district are expected to increase 7 to 9 percent next year, Smith said.

Town officials have sent notices to half the property owners in town, telling them that their property values are being adjusted.

Nearly all those reassessments reflect increases, town officials say, with some jumping as much as 50 percent.

The projected budget would shave 30 to 66 cents off the current tax rate of $19.94 per $1,000 of assessed value -- but even a small assessment increase would be enough to outweigh any tax savings that might bring.

The district received $100,000 more aid for the Williamsville School District than officials there had counted on.

Residents will vote on the plan May 17.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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