Ken-Ton budget, within tax cap, cuts no programs, staff - The Buffalo News

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Ken-Ton budget, within tax cap, cuts no programs, staff

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District would endure no cuts to programs, activities or staffing in a $151.8 million budget presented Tuesday night in a public hearing in the Kenmore West High School cafeteria.

And though the 2014-15 budget contains a 2.75 percent increase in the tax rate, homeowners 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, the district said.

“The state will pay homeowners for any increase in property taxes as long as the district and the homeowner qualify under certain guidelines,” said Gerald Stuitje, assistant superintendent for finance, who handled the budget presentation Tuesday night.

For the district, that means complying with the state’s tax levy limit, which Ken-Ton’s 2.75 percent tax rate increase meets. Homeowners must be eligible for a STAR exemption.

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.

As recently as February, the district 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, Stuitje said.

The tax levy would increase by more than $2 million to $77.3 million under the proposed budget.

The vote on the budget and for two seats on the school board will take place next Tuesday at 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.

During a general public comment, however, 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.

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