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Williamsville board OKs budget with 2.72% tax hike, no staff cuts

The Williamsville School Board unanimously approved a $164.5 million budget for 2012-13 that includes numerous cuts and a 2.72 percent tax increase, but preserves all student academic and extracurricular activities and athletics.

The approved budget will be subject to a public hearing on May 3 and a public vote on May 15. The approved budget stays within the state tax cap limits and is not expected to result in any teacher or staff layoffs.

Board members praised the budget overall.

"I would just rate it as a very strong effort in very challenging economic times," said Board President Michael Littman.

To close a major budget gap, the board agreed to a series of unpleasant cuts. Larger class sizes, fewer classroom supplies and cuts to summer school and elementary health classes were among them.

In addition, the district eliminated many teacher leadership stipends, and slashed budget lines for equipment and supplies, facility and bus maintenance expenses, School Board travel allowances and teacher training opportunities. All top administrative positions will see frozen wages. Even so, the Williamsville Central School District has been far more successful than other districts in minimizing the impact on students. "All along, we have strived to keep Williamsville, Williamsville," said Superintendent Scott Martzloff. "We have done everything we possibly can within this budget to ensure that we keep our school district a very special place for students and for families."

The state budget provided a last-minute funding boost of $225,000 last week that, for now, is being earmarked to restore cuts to school equipment.

The budget would still increase spending by 1.69 percent, or $2.73 million, and raise the tax levy by $2.81 million. That amount falls within the state's mandated tax cap requirement (2 percent plus certain spending exemptions). The district also is appropriating $10 million in reserves.

The tax rate is projected to be $18.46 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 49-cent increase over the current year.

Of the budget cuts that would be felt across the district:

* Increased class sizes, which would raise the first-grade class size from a maximum of 22 students to 24, and raise 12th-grade class sizes by three to five students per class, Martzloff said. Class sizes at other grade levels may increase slightly. Declining enrollment trends are expected to eventually offset the elementary class size increases.

* A 40 percent cut in all supplies "across the board."

* Elimination of the district's GED program and the IDEAS elementary class.

* Consolidation of elementary and middle school summer school sites, and reduction of advanced summer school offerings for high school students. All remedial courses would be maintained.

* Elimination of paid transportation to any school competition more than 250 miles away.

* The elimination of more than 100 teacher "team leader" positions, which cost the district between $3,000 and $4,000 in stipends per person. Team leaders provide administrative support, communication and curriculum guidance at all grade levels.