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Williamsville School Board approves $170 million budget

Members of the Williamsville School Board unanimously approved a $170 million proposed budget Tuesday night that would preserve all school programs and raise taxes by $4.14 million.

This 3.89 percent increase in the property taxes collected by the district remains under the state cap but is the largest tax increase the Williamsville district has seen in eight years. A final public hearing on the budget will be held May 9, with a public vote scheduled for May 21.

“Our goal was fiscal responsibility,” said Board President Carrie Kahn, “and we have indeed exceeded those goals.”

The budget supports some new initiatives, including the universal iPad program for all fifth-graders next year, beefed-up school security and the restoration of a full-time middle school social worker.

“It maintains the current level of academic and extracurricular programming,” said Superintendent Scott Martzloff. “I can’t accentuate enough what a tremendous accomplishment this is, given the fiscal times we’re in.”

School Board members had previously discussed the possibility of raising taxes by as much as 4.26 percent to preserve programs, increase school security and add additional security cameras to school buildings.

However, Martzloff said the state budget included $539,000 in more aid to the district than originally anticipated, making a higher tax increase unnecessary.

The adopted budget would translate into a tax rate of $18.96 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $18.35, and would raise annual property tax bills by $61 on a $100,000 home.

The budget the board adopted Tuesday raises total spending by $5.4 million, or 3.32 percent, despite a slight estimated decline in student enrollment.

The budget raises 65 percent of all revenue through property taxes, 20 percent through state aid and the remainder through sales taxes, reserves and other sources, according to Tuesday’s financial report.

The budget also assumes the loss of $150,000 in federal aid due to sequestration.

Because of an anticipated drop in available state building aid for 2014-15, the board had previously debated whether to fast-track its security camera installation plan and add 98 more cameras in addition to the ones it already planned to install in 2013-14.

With the additional state money, the board agreed to go ahead with the additional camera purchases.

As part of the budget discussion, Martzloff reviewed budget reductions that the district has already undertaken, including $3.69 million in cuts this year through the reduction of staff through attrition and retirements and changes in the use of BOCES services.

The budget proposal also allocates $9.72 million in reserves.

In other news:

• The board approved the borrowing of $13.5 million for construction improvements throughout the district. The board in December approved a capital construction plan that includes $16.75 million in total spending, with some of the funding coming from the district’s capital reserve fund.