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Board to weigh budget options; In low turn-out vote, residents rejected proposed $33.37 million spending plan

Cheektowaga-Sloan School Board members will meet at 8 p.m. Monday to look at options after voters defeated the proposed 2012-13 budget Tuesday.

"The most disappointing thing is the numbers were so low," Superintendent James Mazgajewski said.

Residents voted 454-421 against the $33.37 million budget -- the lone spending plan defeated in Erie County.

The defeat follows a trend over the past five years, with an increasing number of people voting against budgets during that time.

The School Board must decide whether to put the budget, or a different budget, up for a vote again June 19, or adopt a contingency budget.

If a second budget fails, the district must adopt a contingency budget.

Under the state's tax cap legislation, the tax levy cannot be increased on a contingency budget. That means the board and administrators would have to reduce the tax levy -- and budget -- by another $189,500.

"Certainly we'd have to take out equipment repairs," Mazgajewski said. "We'd have to look at personnel again."

That would be another blow to the staff. Teachers agreed to a freeze in wages and step increases in the 2012-13 year, and the superintendent has credited that move with "saving" the budget.

But it apparently wasn't enough for most voters, who did not want to see the tax levy increase 1.25 percent.

The superintendent said it is disappointing to the staff, which could be dealing with a contingency budget that restricts some spending on equipment, as well as requiring further cuts to reduce the tax levy.

"They all did the right things. Everybody put themselves out there," he said. "People are sad."

It has been about 12 years since the last budget defeat, the superintendent said.