After years of budget increases, school closings and staff cuts, the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District for the first time in many years will be able to keep tax rates flat, Assistant Superintendent for Finance John Brucato said.
"We are looking at a zero tax levy limit for 2017-18," said Brucato. "That is huge for us."
In fact, the tax rate may even go down, he said,
Brucato is set to hold the first district budget meeting 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Sheridan Building Community Room, 3200 Elmwood Ave., to explain what he called a "post-consolidation budget."
"We closed three building at the start of the school year. We made significant staffing reductions coming into this year and recognized significant savings.We are also past Huntley," Brucato referring to the loss of tax revenue from the coal to energy plant that closed in 2016. "Those major hurdles are behind us."
He said the district has started receiving state money for capital projects. The state provides 75 percent in state aid for every dollar spent on capital projects, and Brucato said the district's 2009 and 2014 projects have started to generate building aid.
He said that state aid is not keeping up with payroll, health care and other costs. But for 2017-18, the district is expected to hold the line on taxes, while not cutting staffing.
In 2016-17, taxpayers faced an increase of 3.98 percent in taxes, with the average taxpayer paying about $1,994 in taxes for a $100,000 home, Brucato said.
However, in 2017-18, with a zero percent increase in the tax levy, that tax bill could go down. He said the valuation of property in the town has been increasing steadily, which could lower overall tax rates.
Last year the state "electric mitigation fund" provided $2.2 million to the Ken-Ton district, about 80 percent of what the district had been receiving annually from the Huntley plant owner.
But Brucato said the district has not put these funds into the general operating budget.
"Next year (the state) provides 65 percent and it's going to keep going down. What we are not going to do is build that number into budget as a revenue," Brucato said. "We were very fortunate to receive that funding, but there is no guarantee that it will be there. If we did rely on it we could be in the middle of a school year with a pretty sizable deficit."
The preliminary budget will be presented to the school board on March 7. The tentative adoption by the board is scheduled April 4. The election/budget referendum will be on May 16. All budget and board meetings are open to the public.