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Budget Talks: Tonawanda School District

Tonawanda School Board members adopted a budget that stays within the tax cap and lowers taxes.

The district is one of 82 districts in the state with a negative tax cap this year. Tonawanda’s cap is a negative 1.93 percent, and that’s how much the levy would go down if a simple majority of voters approve the budget.

Veterans who qualify will see their taxes reduced even more due to the veterans tax exemption approved by the board. The cost of the exemption is passed on to non-veteran taxpayers, but the district maintains those taxpayers will not see an increase this year because of the reduced tax levy. Final tax rates will not be known until August.

The budget includes new programming for after-school help for elementary students, a fifth-grade teacher at Fletcher, a special-education teacher for grades K-3, a part-time reading teacher and three-and-a-half elementary teaching assistant positions. The director of health, athletics and physical education will increase from a part-time position to full time, with additional duties assisting the middle school.

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Proposed budget

Proposed total budget: $31.81 million, up 2.31 percent

Proposed tax levy: $11.44 million, down 1.93 percent.

Tax levy increase allowed under tax cap: Negative 1.93 percent

Planning to go over tax cap? No

• Tax rate: $17.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, down 0.74 percent.

What could be added: Two-and-one-half teaching positions, after school help for elementary students.

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What is a tax levy?

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

What is the tax cap?

Gov. 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 votes – called a super majority – to approve a budget that goes over the tax cap. They only need one vote over 50 percent for a budget below the tax cap to pass.

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

– Barbara O’Brien, News Staff Reporter