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Orchard Park school budget stays within the tax cap

Orchard Park School Board members unanimously adopted a budget Tuesday night that preserves current programs, adds partial funding for girls ice hockey and stays within the tax cap.

Superintendent Matthew McGarrity said preserving the curriculum was the priority.

“That’s what makes Orchard Park Orchard Park, the wide breadth of programs for our students,” he said.

The $86.04 million budget increases spending 2.87 percent and carries a tax levy of $53.81 million, up 3.28 percent. District officials are waiting for more information on tentative assessments before releasing an estimated tax rate.

The budget keeps class sizes within current School Board guidelines, with a net reduction in staff of 8.25 full-time equivalent positions. That includes the net addition of a 0.4 teaching position and a reduction of 8.65 support staff positions.

The budget preserves the gifted and talented program in the elementary and middle schools and increases counselor and social worker support on the elementary level. A part-time reading specialist position and four part-time teacher’s aide positions at the Middle School are reduced under the budget.

It also would reduce a part-time reading specialist and a clerical position at the high school while increasing the textbook allotment to help meet new standards. The budget also provides $4,000 toward a girls ice hockey coach, and a donation of $2,500 is expected to complete the coaching salary line, reducing the amount needed to be raised by team supporters. The girls ice hockey program has been funded by donations the past two years.

The budget would return special-education services from BOCES to the district and increase psychologist services, clerical support in the curriculum office and pool monitors. It would redistribute staff in the Buildings and Grounds Department to reduce costs. The district also is looking at reducing costs for bus runs and switching to a self-funded workers’ compensation plan.

One of the major cost increases in next year’s budget is in payments for the retirement system, which is up $1.6 million.

And while state aid is up over last year, it’s still lower than in 2008-09, officials said.

“Obviously, it’s not enough,” said board Vice President Natalie Schaffer. “It doesn’t even cover a fraction of the [Teacher Retirement System] increase, which is mandated. When you look at how much that takes of our budget increase, $2.4 million, I think it just demonstrates that we’ve been responsible in reducing and containing cost increases.”

McGarrity noted that the district has reduced its annual energy budget by $426,500 over the last seven years. The district also saves $1.3 million a year by self-funding its health insurance and saved $1.2 million in salaries through last year’s retirement incentive.

The public vote on the budget is May 21. If the budget is defeated twice, the district must enact a contingency budget which cannot increase the tax levy. That means $1.7 million in cuts would have to be made.

“Obviously that would have a very large impact on programs if it came to that,” said Jeffrey Petrus, assistant superintendent for business and support services.