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Niagara Wheatfield School Board OKs budget with $1.5 million in cuts

SANBORN – The Niagara Wheatfield School Board adopted a 2014-15 budget Wednesday as recommended by the school superintendent.

By a unanimous vote, the board agreed to put a $64,616,391 budget to voters next month that carries a property tax rate increase of 4.8 percent – the amount allowed under the state tax cap.

Although the board selected the amount of the tax increase, it directed Superintendent Lynn Fusco earlier in the month to figure out which areas to cut. In order to stay within the cap limit, some $1.5 million had to be cut from personnel, programs and operations.

Fusco’s budget would eliminate six elementary teachers ($432,258), 2.6 music positions ($178,069), a mechanic ($40,981), about a half arts and foreign language position ($40,033), some athletic programs ($87,838), club advisors ($36,287), a micro-computer coordinator ($70,653), and speech improvement through the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services ($115,310).

The budget also calls for a reorganization of buildings and grounds that would save $299,276, and a change to require high school electives have an enrollment of at least 26 students for the course to run ($187,477).

The elementary teacher cuts would increase class size to 30 in sixth grade and give other elementary grades a range of 22-26 per class. Reductions in music education would result in a department reorganization to provide chorus and band to students but cut general music for those in band and chorus, Fusco said.

She identified the sports programs to be cut as tennis, swimming, golf, bowling, cross country, and fall cheerleading.

If the budget fails to pass next month, the board could offer another spending alternative to voters or go to a budget with a zero tax increase. A zero tax budget would require another $1.4 million in cuts, according to officials.

In order to promote the budget and answer questions, Fusco will make presentations throughout the district: at the adult learning center on Tuesday; Colonial Village School on May 1; Errick Road on May 6; and West Street Elementary on May 8. All are scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m., she said.

Along with the budget proposition, voters will decide on a proposal to establish a capital reserve fund to pay for transportation department needs such as buses. Fusco said the fund, essentially a savings account, would not exceed $2 million.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 7 p.m. May 7; balloting is May 20.