Salamanca residents to vote on school budget plan that will lower taxes - The Buffalo News

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Salamanca residents to vote on school budget plan that will lower taxes

SALAMANCA – Taxpayers in the Salamanca City Central School District will have a chance to vote next Tuesday on a rare occurrence. School administrators are asking the people of the district to vote on a $27,572,466 spending plan that will lower taxes by almost 30 percent.

“While most districts hang precariously close to financial and instructional insolvency, we are leading the way into the 21st Century,” District Superintendent, Robert J. Breidenstein, said. “The reduction is possible because of a series of judicious decisions made by the District and the Board of Education dating back to 2011.”

Despite the legal ability to increase taxes by 3.26 percent, the taxpayers would see a decrease of 29.17 percent. That decrease will bring the total amount to be raised through tax levy from the current $3,427,897 down to $2,427,897.

Some of those decisions include prioritization of spending in critical areas, as well as spending in the district that would generate a greater benefit. District officials have also been able to reduce costs through attrition of faculty and managing reserve funds in a more conservative manner.

The district has received $5,744,727 in Casino Exclusivity payments, but, as Breidenstein pointed out, there is no guarantee for how long, nor the amount to be received, in these payments annually. Payment is expected through 2023. That funding has a specific purpose in the district as well. Payments for 2013 have not been completed, with the district still waiting for about $483,000.

“The funding is allocated into our 21st Century Committee for items such as increased staffing,” he said. That staffing would include such positions as literacy and math coaches, two new Kindergarten through Grade 6 positions, athletic trainer and staff development and training.

Another factor in funding for the district is the $1.6 million in Federal Impact Aid received in November. That amount does have a small percentage that must go to students with disabilities, however, the rest is used to decrease the tax burden in the district. With a large part of the district being located on the Seneca Nation Allegany Territory, 42 percent of the residences are tax exempt as members of the Seneca Nation.

Despite the decrease, with 85 percent of the budget coming from state and federal aid, the district will be able to add programs and services, while lowering the student to teacher ratio through staff hiring. The goal is to drop those levels to the 2008 level, before the freeze in state aid to schools.

If the budget does not meet with taxpayer approval, the district can put it out for a second referendum or revise the budget and put out for another vote. The final option would be to adopt a contingency budget that would exclude many services and purchases, to include private use of the facilities. The district is facing the rare occurrence of the contingency possibility being nearly $1 million more than the proposed spending plan.

Also on the ballot are two candidates seeking election to two seats on the Board of Education. Theresa Ray is running for a second term and Zachary Tucker is looking for his first term.

Registered voters can vote next Tuesday in the Junior/Senior High School Gymnasium at 50 Iroquois Dr., from noon until 9 p.m.

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