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Cheektowaga-Sloan School Board uses reserve fund to offset tax imbalance

An unexpected change in West Seneca property assessments has forced the Cheektowaga-Sloan School Board to withdraw $100,000 from its reserve fund to offset the resulting tax imbalance with Cheektowaga.

Both towns released their assessment figures last week.

Property owners in Cheektowaga will still see a tax rate increase of 0.95 percent, or 31 cents for each $1,000 of assessment, and the rate for the West Seneca portion of the district will be an additional $2.38 per thousand, or a 3.12 percent increase.

Maintaining a similar tax rate was a challenge, said district business manager Wayne Drescher.

Drescher said Cheektowaga’s property assessment – which remained at 100 percent of true value – within the school district went up by $1.2 million, or about 0.29 percent.

“On the flip side, West Seneca had significant changes,” Drescher said.

West Seneca officials dropped the town-wide assessment rate by nearly one percent, from 42.9 to 42 percent.

While that may not seem like much, Drescher said that the total assessed property values in the small portion of West Seneca served by the district plummeted $2.1 million – more than 14 percent.

According to Drescher, West Seneca officials ordered a complete re-evaluation of the portion of the town within the Cheektowaga-Sloan district because of poor home sales in that area.

That re-evaluation lowered the value of all residential properties and created a difference of $143,090, a burden that would have been shouldered by the Cheektowaga side.

However, because the district had more money in its reserves than anticipated at the end of the 2014-15 school year, Drescher proposed removing $100,000 from the tax levy and replacing it with an equal amount in reserves to close most of the gap.

Superintendent Andrea Galenski said dipping into the reserve fund won’t affect district finances. She cited lower costs and reduced spending during the past two years – along with partnering with BOCES – as evidence the district could absorb the loss.

The board approved the revision and set Cheektowaga’s tax rate at $33.05 for each $1,000 of assessment, and the West Seneca rate at $78.70 per thousand.