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Williamsville 2010-11 school tax rate to rise 2%

Property owners in the Williamsville School District will likely see a 2 percent increase in their school tax rate for the 2010-11 school year, based on the latest revenue projections shared with the School Board on Wednesday.

The estimated tax burden for homeowners would grow by $38 on a $100,000 home or $76 on a $200,000 home, according to the information provided to board members at the budget work session.

Homeowners with a basic STAR tax exemption would see a $26 increase on a $100,000 home or a $64 increase on a $200,000 home.

The $159 million budget would increase spending by nearly 3 percent overall, but $8.2 million in reserves would be used to offset the gap between rising expenses and the burden on taxpayers.

The increase is small compared with tax hikes that many other financially crippled school districts face, Superintendent Howard Smith pointed out. The 2010-11 budget would preserve all academic and extracurricular program offerings.

Smith had initially proposed a budget that raised the tax levy -- the amount of property tax money the district collects -- by 4 percent. Based on board feedback, he made $2 million in additional budget cuts that reduced the tax increase by 2 percent.

During Wednesday's brief show-and-tell work session, Smith shared information with the board showing a tax rate of $17.54 per $1,000 of assessed value for 2010-11, up from $17.16. The increase represents the first time in many years that the district's tax rate has grown by a larger percentage than the consumer price index, a measure of inflation, he said.

Smith and other board members noted that the $17.54 tax rate is one of the lowest in eight years.

During the last eight years, however, home values in Amherst have risen, resulting in homeowners paying higher school taxes. Most Amherst property owners saw a considerable increase in their assessments last year when the town revalued every parcel in town limits.

The district's tax levy has grown by $4 million in the past four years. Smith said much of the increased spending is due to increases in employee benefits and other costs -- such as health insurance and retirement -- over which the district has no control.

In other news, the board held a special meeting prior to the work session to approve a union contract with the Williamsville Supervisors and Computer Technicians Association. The 3-year contract gives the 21 union members an average wage increase of 2.5 percent.

In exchange, the members agreed to chip in more for their health insurance premiums. They currently pay 5 percent and will pay 14 percent by September 2012, Smith said, calling the trade off a fair exchange.

The 21-member union comprises higher-level computer technicians and network administrators, as well as some noncomputer-related district supervisors.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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