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Board airs 2 scenarios involving tax hikes Spending reductions outlined for options

The Amherst Central School Board on Tuesday was presented two tax-increase scenarios for the 2009-10 budget.

School Business Administrator Gregory Kern outlined spending reductions that would be needed to keep the tax increase at 8 percent and 6 percent during a meeting of the board in Amherst Middle School.

Originally, administrators said it would take a tax increase of nearly 13 percent to maintain the status quo in the face of a possible $1.3 million cut in state aid. The district has been grappling with a possible $2.1 million budget gap.

School Superintendent Laura Chabe noted the district will receive $385,000 from the federal stimulus package that was signed into law last week. But it is not yet known how much it might receive in federal stabilization funds, which will be meted out by the state to school districts across New York. And the state aid picture won't be clear until a new state budget is adopted, possibly by the deadline of April 1.

The board must adopt a new budget by April 21, which would then be voted on by district residents in May.

An 8 percent tax increase -- yielding $28,469,433 -- would result in $947,539 in expenditure reductions, including $483,539 in salary and benefits; $315,000 in transportation, by changing school starting times and reduction of six buses; $75,000 in general support; $60,500 from instruction; and $13,000 from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

It would require cutting 3.5 teaching positions and 11 non-instruction full-time equivalents, including aides, clerical and maintenance staff and nurses.

A 6 percent tax increase -- yielding $27,953,333 -- would translate to $1,463,539 in expenditure reductions, including $959,539 in salaries and benefits; $315,000 in transportation; $95,500 from general support; $80,500 from instruction and $13,000 from BOCES. It would require eliminating 5.2 teacher positions, one administrator and salaries for extracurricular, sports and summer school programs.

In a recent series of three meetings on the proposed $44.7 million budget, many parents have asked the board not to cut teaching positions or instructional programs. Administrators have noted that 75 percent of the budget is devoted to staff and related expenses.

Other projected revenue includes $10,391,364 in state aid, a figure that could change depending on what the State Legislature does; $2.5 million in sales tax; $1 million from the fund balance; $675,025 in various forms of other aid; $361,000 from payments in lieu of taxes; $267,000 from community education; a $100,000 onetime tax rebate from the Town of Amherst; and $50,000 in interest income.

Because there are just three regular board meetings before the panel must adopt a budget, Chabe said there may be a need for special meetings on budget issues.

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