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3.8% INCREASE IN TAX RATE COMES WITH NEW BUDGET

Property taxes in the Cheektowaga Central School District would increase 3.8 percent next year if voters approve the proposed budget May 17.

"I think it's a responsible budget," said Jane P. Okun, board president. "We're not cutting things. We're not adding things. It's the best budget we could come up with."

Spending would rise 5.9 percent to $31.23 million. The proposed tax rate would be $27.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up $1 or 3.8 percent from this year. The tax levy of $19.11 million also would increase 3.8 percent.

"We cut what was necessary in order to achieve a budget with a $1 tax increase," Superintendent Delia G. Bonenberger said.

She said the budget contains no program increases, while costs have been cut by spending more carefully rather than reducing programs.

The district will save by continuing to bring special education students from other districts to classes it operates, she said. The district also cut some services provided by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, she said.

Special education costs are down about $158,000, Brian Gould, a board member said, praising Director of Pupil Services Mary Morris and her staff. He said the board would continue to look for ways to save money.

"Public education means just that," said Diane Panasiewicz, another board member. "You have to bring those kids up to New York State standards no matter what they come with."

"We'd like to raise it nothing, but that does no good if we cannot keep a reserve," Bonenberger said.

The district received about $200,000 more than expected in state aid for special education and BOCES, Assistant Superintendent Dennis M. Kane said. That allowed the district to apply $200,000 to reduce taxes, he said.

Officials said spending in a contingent budget would have to be reduced by $785,680 by eliminating non-mandated programs such as athletics, extracurricular activities and summer school.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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