Share this article

print logo

Overriding tax caps largely rejected Niagara Wheatfield, Wyoming budgets defeated; Holland is the exception

Overriding the tax cap was a gamble that failed in some school districts Tuesday.

Voters defeated the budget in Niagara Wheatfield, 1,713 to 2,004, and in Wyoming Central, which also was attempting to override the tax cap.

Both budgets would have raised taxes by 9.9 percent, something that voters apparently were not able to handle.

Voters approved the budget in Holland, which also sought to override the tax cap.

"Obviously, the voters have spoken tonight, so we're going to have to go back and make some serious cuts," Niagara Wheatfield Superintendent Kerin Dumphrey said.

Board President Steve Sabo called the vote the most crucial budget vote in the history of the district.

"This vote will define NW for not only this school year but for all those that follow," Sabo wrote on the Concerned Parents for Niagara Wheatfield Schools Facebook page Tuesday night.

The district was trying to offset an $8 million deficit caused by five years of spending reserve funds. Spending in the budget was down 1.84 percent, but the tax levy was slated to go up 9.9 percent, above the district's tax cap of 7 percent.

With state and federal aid declining by $5 million over the past five years, Niagara Wheatfield School Board members adopted the lowest budget in five years.

Concessions from teachers and staff saved the district more than $1.4 million. Still, there were major cuts totaling more than $4 million.

If Niagara Wheatfield has to go to a contingency budget, another $2.7 million will have to be cut.

"The Board of Education will have to talk about cutting deeper into programs, cutting deeper into class sizes," Dumphrey said.

In Holland, voters approved a budget that will exceed the tax cap by 0.42 percent. They needed 60 percent of the vote, and the budget passed with 65 percent.

In Royalton-Hartland, residents voted to keep the library tax, 401-84. A referendum was held last year on the library tax, but it took place three weeks after the school election.

That vote was not publicized in mandatory budget fliers mailed to each home, but it was included in a legal notice in local newspapers, and a public meeting was conducted in the Middleport Fire Hall. Notices of that vote were mailed only to Friends of the Library members, and the tax was approved last year, 176-12. It raised $103,000 for the library.

Royalton resident Mary Cedeno circulated petitions to get the measure on Tuesday's ballot.

Under state law, the library tax does not have to be reapproved every year -- it would be perpetual unless there was a need to change the amount. Tuesday's proposition sought to change the amount to zero.

Some school boards will be smaller next school year. Westfield in Chautauqua County will go from nine members to seven. Springville approved a proposition to reduce the size of the board by two votes, while Holland voters overwhelmingly defeated a similar proposition.

In many districts, school board incumbents had little opposition. Races in seven of 10 districts in Niagara County were unopposed. In Erie County, there were races in 14 districts, while candidates were unopposed in 13 districts.

And in Akron, two seats were open, but only one person filed petitions and ran.

Voters also defeated the budget in Cheektowaga-Sloan, 421-452. That follows last year's vote that saw the budget approved by only 18 votes.

Sloan's tax-cap number was 1.25 percent, and the tax levy would have gone up 1.25 percent. Teachers had agreed to concessions to save money.

Voters also approved a proposition that would increase the distance children must live from school to receive transportation. A resident collected petitions to get the proposition on the ballot.

It would have children in kindergarten through eighth grade living a half-mile from school, as well as high school students living one mile from school, walk instead of taking the bus. The proposition was approved, 651-404, which could save the district about $14,000.

School districts will have to learn to manage their finances and programs with the tax cap in the years to come. Most districts have already cut personnel.

"Major cuts in the way we have achieved them in the past is no longer feasible," said Erie 1 BOCES Superintendent Donald Ogilvie. "I think we've done everything we can in that area."

That means future budgets will have to look at combining services, such as back office duties, and rethinking transportation. Some districts already are sharing administrators and cooperating on transportation.

> Niagara County

BARKER

Candidates (Elect 3): Gordon Kenyon (i), 248; Randall Atwater (i), 247; Ronald Clemens (i), 235.

Budget: Yes, 195; No, 96.

LEWISTON-PORTER

Candidates (Elect 2): Michael J. Skowronski, 899; Mollie A. Lucas, 883.

Budget: Yes, 767; No, 409.

Proposition 2: $2.7 million capital improvement project to improve and renovate the high school and middle school: Yes, 780; No, 345.

LOCKPORT

Candidates (Elect 3): Thomas W. Fiegl (i), 1,244; Kevin W. Pratt, 1,219; John A. Linderman (i), 1,202.

Budget: Yes, 1,174; No, 512.

NEWFANE

Candidates (Elect 2): Kelly Artieri (i), 769; James Reineke (i), 749.

Budget: Yes, 610; No, 487.

NIAGARA FALLS

Candidates (Elect 1): Vincent "Jimmy" Cancemi Sr. (i), 943; Joseph Marinello Jr., 707.

Budget: Yes, 968; No, 627.

NIAGARAWHEATFIELD

Candidates (Elect 2): Richard Sirianni, 2,596; Steven Sabo (i), 2,225; and Kristin MacKenzie (i), 1,502.

Budget: Yes, 1,713; No, 2,004.

NORTH TONAWANDA

Candidates (Elect 3): James Martineck, 1,368; Kevin LoCicero (i), 1,358; Dorothy "Dotti" Kuebler, 1,321; Michael Carney, 1,315; Lisa Spencer, 1,118; Darlene Bolsover, 740.

Budget: Yes, 1,731; No, 1,143.

Proposition 2: Spend $200,000 from a reserve fund to purchase a school bus: Yes, 1,835; No, 997.

ROYALTON-HARTLAND

Candidates (Elect 2): Sandra Hoerner, 855; Patricia Riegle (i), 762.

Budget: Yes, 867; No, 348.

Proposition 2: Reduce the annual tax levy for the Middleport Free Library from $103,000 to zero dollars: No, 401; Yes, 84.

STARPOINT

Candidates (Elect 2): Gregory G. Brehm (i), 770; Mark E. Ewart (i), 717.

Budget: Yes, 732; No, 354.

WILSON

Candidates (Elect 2): Christopher Carlin (i), n/a; Michael Leggett (i), n/a; Christopher Srock, n/a; Eric Truesdell, n/a.

Budget: Not available.

email: bobrien@buffnews.com