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$63.9 million budget going to voters

A $63.9 million budget that reflects a property tax hike of less than 1 percent will be presented to Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District voters next month.

The School Board adopted the 2007-08 fiscal package by a 6-0 vote Wednesday following a presentation by school Business Executive Kerin Dumphrey.

If voters approve the budget May 15, the average tax rate in the district would rise about 0.7 percent, it was noted. Taxes would cover $29 million of the budget under the proposal, he explained. Dumphrey said voters would have the opportunity to review the budget during a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. May 2 in West Street Elementary School.

The projected budget is up about 11 percent compared with this year. Nearly 6 percent is attributed to debt service on the current capital project, with almost 3 percent going to costs caused by increased enrollment and the rest to cost-of-living increases, he said.

A new state aid formula has projected about $29 million for Niagara-Wheatfield, Dumphrey said. The total is up about 9.4 percent over this year's package.

Resident Russell Brumby of Cayuga Street said he found it "amazing" that the district would increase taxes at all when it is receiving much more money than it did in 2006.

Along with the budget, voters will also decide on a $2.7 million proposition to replace the roofs at Colonial Village and Errick Road elementary schools. The expenditure is not expected to add to the tax burden.

In other business, the board:

* Agreed to support a redistricting plan that would send 90 Errick Road pupils to West Street in September. Despite the objections of many parents, School Superintendent Judith Howard said the move was the most efficient way to address the population shift in the district. She said another redistricting should be expected when the additions at West Street are completed in a couple of years.

* Approved a payment of $225,000 to Niagara County to settle a longtime legal dispute that erupted when the school district withdrew from the county workers' compensation pool several years ago.

* Was told by some speakers that it should not have filled a vacant board seat last month without interviewing candidates. Dan Maertin of Bergholtz said the board should have solicited applicants and conducted interviews before appointing a replacement for Patty Crider, who left in January. Maertin said the appointment of Kathy Fleming looked "pre-planned." Fleming will have to run in the May election.


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