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Budget Talks: Williamsville Central School District

Downhill skiing, a Web and social media coordinator and lower class sizes in first and second grades are some of the additions planned for Williamsville Central Schools next year.

The School Board is considering adding $1.6 million in programs and support in the 2016-17 budget. The district is assuming the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment ( GEA) will be totally phased out. Superintendent Scott Martzloff said the GEA has been detrimental over the last six years. “We’ve enacted millions and millions of dollars in cuts and reductions that have impacted programs, staffing levels and pretty much every facet of our district,” he said.

In addition to adding alpine skiing as an interscholastic sport, the district also wants to add modified cross country teams. Class sizes would drop by one student to a range of 19 to 23 students for first grade and 20 to 24 in second grade, but because of decreasing enrollment, the change is not expected to cost extra. The district would maintain a math coaching position, increase psychology services in elementary schools to full-time and increase the equipment, material and supply budgets that were cut more than $1 million in the last seven years.

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Preliminary budget

Proposed total budget: $183.01 million, up 2.7 percent

Additional state aid if GEA restored: $2.2 million

Proposed tax levy: $1.3 million, up 1.13 percent

Tax levy increase allowed under tax cap: 1.22 percent

Plan to go over tax cap? No

What could be cut: Nothing at this time.

What could be added: Several sports; $563,000 in equipment, materials and supplies; speech pathologist; increased psychology services.

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What is a tax levy?

The tax levy is the total amount in taxes collected from district property owners.

What is the tax cap?

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo instituted the tax cap three years ago to help control local taxes. It’s billed as a 2 percent tax cap but is actually based on the rate of inflation. Each district’s cap is different because of a complicated formula and can be higher or lower than 2 percent.

Districts need 60 percent of voters – a super majority – to approve a budget that goes over the tax cap. They only need one vote over 50 percent to pass a budget below the tax cap.

What is the GEA?

The Gap Elimination Adjustment is the reduction in the amount of aid from the state to help close a $10 billion state budget gap in 2010. District leaders and many politicians argue that since the state no longer has a deficit, there is no need for the GEA and the state should restore the money to its former levels.

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Voters go to the polls Tuesday, May 17 to approve or reject the proposed budget and vote on candidates for school board and any propositions.

Barbara O’Brien, News Staff Reporter