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Little fat seen in 4.69% budget increase

The Williamsville School Board has asked the superintendent to tweak his proposed budget to give it a sense of what would be cut to bring the spending increase down to 4.5 percent.

The current plan increases spending 4.69 percent. Bringing that down to 4.5 percent would mean finding another $260,000 to cut out of a $139.4 million budget.

"I don't think there's any fat in it," board member William Freeman said of the budget proposal. "I don't know that there's a lot of room to move this down without compromising programs."

Freeman, though, along with a few other board members, asked Superintendent Howard S. Smith to report back to the board at its March 28 meeting with recommendations on possible cuts.

The current proposal maintains existing programs and class sizes in Williamsville. It includes money for five new teaching positions intended to compensate for fluctuations in student enrollment; two social workers who were added midway through the current school year; a coach for girls varsity golf; and additional staffing for the music program, to compensate for growing student interest.

The spending plan would increase the total amount collected in taxes by about 6.2 percent, according to information provided by the district in February. Growth in property assessments would soften the impact on the tax rate, though, resulting in a tax rate increase between 1.2 percent and 3.1 percent, Assistant Superintendent Thomas R. Maturski estimated in information prepared for the board this week.

Smith noted that the district has learned of several employee retirements since the budget was prepared. Some savings will be realized by penciling in lower-salaried new hires to replace the higher-cost retirees.

Board members discussed Gov. George E. Pataki's proposal to provide a $400 property tax rebate for homeowners living in districts that keep their spending increases below 4 percent. Smith said he believes that plan will not be included in the final state budget.

Several board members had harsh words for Pataki's STAR Plus proposal.

"If [Pataki] has that kind of money to give away, he ought to be giving it to the schools," said board President Linda Viksjo. "It's not a responsible way to approach school funding."

Williamsville School Board members said they did not see the need to try to keep spending below 4 percent. Some board members said they were satisfied with the current budget proposal.

"I still believe this is the best budget probably that can be achieved," said Ronald Shubert. "I'm very sensitive to what the community can afford, but at the same time, we have to maintain what we have here."


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