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Board has votes to OK budget of $38.8 million

In a 4-2 vote, the Lewiston-Porter School Board adopted a $38.8 million budget for 2007-08.

Board members Edward M. Lilly and Scott Stepien cast the "no" votes during the board's special session Saturday.

With only five members present at Tuesday's board meeting, the budget failed by a 3-2 vote because a fourth vote, constituting a board majority, was needed to push it through. Two board members -- Leonard Palumbo and Vice President Louis M. Palmeri -- were unable to attend the meeting.

Saturday, Palumbo was in attendance and voted to approve the budget, enabling the district to comply with a state law that requires all school boards to adopt a budget by April 21. Palmeri is on vacation and did not attend Saturday's session.

Although Stepien admitted that "most of our [budgeted] costs are fixed," he added: "That's not to say we can't do anything at all. I believe this board has to do a better job in controlling its spending."

Lilly called this year's budget increase "tolerable" but added that when "combined with the last two years, it's excessive. It has to stop at some point, and probably the best time for it to stop was two years ago."

Board President David S. Schaubert reminded Lilly that he had voted for a budget two years ago because "it was your budget" as board president.

Lilly said, "I'm voting 'no' to this budget because of the expenditures that continue to increase and that at some point will become unaffordable. . . ."

Schaubert noted the budget "represents a 0.13 percent average increase in the property tax [and] a large portion of the budget [increase] is for one-shot expenditures like replacing textbooks, computers and band instruments."

"These costs won't be building up year after year [like salaries]. They won't be in the budget again because we took care of them this year. It's a one-shot deal."

The budget approved Saturday is $38,821,703, as opposed to the $38,421,703 spending plan defeated Tuesday.

Schaubert said the $400,000 spending increase was recommended by district financial advisers to pay off interest on bond anticipation notes -- loans to pay for $8 million in improvements to the district's Creek Road campus this year.

He said the increase would not impact property owners because the money will come out of a fund the district received from the New York Power Authority in return for its support of the relicensing agreement.

The proposed budget is an increase of about 2.77 percent from the current spending package of $37.8 million. The budget considered Tuesday represented a 1.71 percent increase.

Schaubert said the tax levy under the proposed budget would rise by $273,832, or by 1.25 percent. Because of a 1.11 percent increase in value of property in the district, he said, the average tax rate increase in the towns of Lewiston and Porter would be about 0.13 percent.

He projected that the tax rate would rise in Lewiston by 18 cents per $1,000 assessed property value and decrease by 30 cents in Porter -- a phenomenon laid to a change in Lewiston's equalization rate.


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