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Spending up 1.28 percent in West Seneca School District budget

West Seneca School District officials Thursday presented a proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year in which spending and the projected property tax rate would be increased slightly from this year’s rates.

The School Board is expected to adopt a tentative 2014-15 budget late in April. The annual budget vote and School Board elections will be held May 20, and will include a proposition to buy school buses.

At a little more than $108 million, the proposed budget is up roughly $1.3 million, or 1.28 percent, over the current spending plan.

“We have really worked on developing a long-term, sustainable program; one that doesn’t affect our students and staff on a yearly basis with big variations,” said Brian L. Schulz, who retired earlier this month as the district’s full-time treasurer but remains involved in budget development.

“We’re maintaining our programs and we are continually looking for efficiencies and savings,” Schulz said.

Step increases in salaries would boost spending about $2.2 million and “all other expenses,” such as the BOCES budget, would add another $115,000 or so. But a reduction of health benefits, largely the result of staff reductions, would offset those increases by about $950,000.

Schulz said the district is trying to maintain the things the community is used to seeing, such as the level of transportation services, and its athletic and music programs.

Things “that other districts gave up on long ago,” Schulz said.

But the district is facing a projected decrease of more than $612,000 in state aid, despite the 3.8 percent increase in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s state budget for 2014.

The proposed budget falls within its tax cap mandated by the state.

At this point, the projected property tax increase would be less than 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, according to Schulz.

“Certainly we don’t have any desire to alienate our community by trying to force-feed a 60 percent vote,” Schulz said. He was referring to the requirement that if a district wants to raise taxes more than an amount determined by a state formula, at least 60 percent of voters must approve in order for it to be adopted.