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Proposed Orcharfd park budget hikes tax rate 2.28 percent

Taxpayers in the Orchard Park School District will be voting on an $89.12 million budget proposal for 2014-15, reflecting a 3.66 percent increase in spending, when they head to the polls on May 20.

The School Board this week, in a 6-0 vote, adopted a budget plan calling for an estimated 2.28 percent tax rate increase, although the state is issuing taxpayers a rebate check reimbursing them for the tax increase difference between the current fiscal year and next year’s budget.

The district had faced some painful staff and program cuts early in the budget season as a more than $2 million budget gap loomed. But with a significant boost in state aid, the district has since been able to restore much of what it thought it would have to trim.

“It restores most of the reductions we were discussing the last few months,” said Jeffrey Petrus, assistant superintendent for business. “The additional state aid helped restore a lot. We’re pleased we got the additional aid.”

The administration says that student programs and class sizes will be maintained, with differentiated instruction offered at the middle and elementary schools.

The net change in staffing amounts to a reduction of 3.5 full-time equivalent positions, one in teaching and the remaining 2.5 in support staff.

Health insurance rates spiked by 7 percent, and the increase in retirement system rates and associated costs are up by $617,336. Special education tuition costs rose by nearly $381,000.

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster budget season for us,” Superintendent Matthew P. McGarrity said. “But as it turns out, we got quite a bit more state aid and were able to restore much of what we might have had to cut.”

Even so, McGarrity said cuts still had to be made in the spending plan for next year. As he has throughout the budget process, McGarrity again called attention to the $3.32 million in gap elimination adjustment aid that he said the state still owes the district.

The estimated tax increase for Orchard Park residents would amount to 73 cents more on the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning someone with a home assessed at $100,000, would face a $73 increase in his tax bill.

The new budget keeps the increase in the district’s tax levy – the amount to be raised in taxes – within the calculated 4.2 percent tax levy cap. School officials stressed that taxpayers will receive tax freeze credits because the district stayed within the cap and if homeowners are eligible for STAR exemptions.

The district will hold a public hearing on the budget proposal at 7 p.m. May 6 at the district offices, 2240 Southwestern Blvd., West Seneca.

The district also will have a second proposition on the ballot May 20 for voters to decide whether to buy eight new buses for up to $770,000, continuing a 10-year bus replacement program.

The School Board race features four candidates running for three seats, carrying three-year terms. Running are incumbent David Nielsen, newcomers Jacquelyn M. Giese, Dwight D. Mateer and Christine Gray Tinnesz. Incumbents Sean Wittmann and Rachel Baksa are not seeking re-election.