SALAMANCA – School districts throughout New York State are seeing funding cuts and taxes going up by as much as the tax cap will allow. But the Salamanca School District is seeing the opposite, predicting a nearly 30 percent drop in the tax levy even as it adds staff and programs.
Karen S. Magara, the district’s business manager, said district taxpayers are going to see a decrease in the tax levy to the tune of 29.17 percent. The levy in the current school year brought in $3.43 million. For the 2014-2015 school year, the levy is anticipated to be $2.43 million, a decrease of $1 million on the projected $27.12 million spending plan.
“This is an unprecedented move,” Superintendent Robert J. Breidenstein said. “I have been with many districts, and never have I seen one do what we are doing in cutting the tax levy and increasing staff and curriculum.”
The tax decrease is a result of the award of $1 million in Federal Impact Aid Grant funding, as well as use of funds in district reserve accounts, Breidenstein said. The cut comes after back-to-back years of holding the line on taxes. According to the state formula, the district could have legally gone to the voters with an increase of levy of about 3.26 percent.
The preliminary budget calls for an increase of revenue of about $1.74 million in the coming school year, or 6.9 percent, according to Magara.
Expenditures for the coming year will be going up by the same percentage, according to Magara’s projections.
The biggest drivers of the higher budget are mandated expenditures of teacher retirement and health insurance. Teacher retirement contribution is expected to rise from 16.25 percent to 17.53 percent, an 8 percent increase.
Health insurance is expected to have a premium increase of about 7 percent, meaning that the district will be spending about $81,238 more.
The other positive to the budget plan is that additional staff would be added to replace retiring teachers in art, math, reading, science, social studies and elementary positions, as well as a social worker. In addition to those, a position will increase to full time in home and careers, a math specialist will be added for Seneca Elementary, math curriculum and English language arts curriculum coaches will be added to the kindergarten through eighth grade and two more elementary teachers will be added in the district.
Programs also will see growth, according to Magara’s budget plan. General professional development and technological development will be increased for faculty. Mini-grants will be established in the buildings to aid in small projects. The grants would be about $30,000, Magara said.
A final piece of new spending would replace several items that have been neglected over the years including athletic equipment, according to Magara.
The final budget hearing is set for May 13, with the vote to be held May 20.