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Board approves tax hike of 3.18%

The Amherst School Board approved a budget Tuesday that would increase the average homeowner's school taxes by $63 in 2011-12.

The $47.14 million spending plan was reduced entering Tuesday's meeting, with the announcement of a couple more teacher retirements. That brought the total number of teacher reductions next year to the equivalent of 4.2 positions. Business Administrator Melanie Conley said all of those positions were lost through attrition. "No one will actually lose their job," she said.

Also, the $201,441 in spending reductions included cuts to the transportation line and the combination of modified sports teams, Conley said.

Under the budget approved Tuesday, the owner of a $100,000 home would see the tax bill increase to $2,034, from from $1,971 this year, an increase of 3.18 percent.

The tax hike and spending reductions were made necessary in part by a cut in funding from the state, but Conley said this year's tax rate increase is well below the 7.53 percent hike in this year's budget and is close to the district's 15-year average.

The budget brought the district to within about $600,000 of the contingency plan, which would require further cuts and become effective if residents reject the board's budget May 17.

"I think it's positive that we're so close to contingency," board member David Stocking said.

"I'm really proud of what we've done -- the cuts we didn't have to make," board President William Blanford said.

But those cuts could be coming in the near future, Conley said.

Based on current projections, which include the 2 percent property tax cap proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the district faces a deficit of $3.2 million in 2012-13 and $5.4 million in 2013-14.

Blanford announced Tuesday that two of the district's unions have agreed to two-year contract extensions that include salary freezes in 2012-13. The administrators and service staff unions both will forgo raises in 2012-13 and receive pay adjustments of 2.75 percent in 2013-14, he said.

Negotiations continue with the teachers union, he said.

The district will host a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the district offices behind Amherst Middle School.

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