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Orchard Park School Board unanimously approves $91.4 million budget

The Orchard Park School Board on Tuesday evening unanimously approved a $91.4 million budget with a 3.65 percent tax increase, including seven new teaching positions and money for the freshman football program.

A state refund to homeowners is expected to cover the increase, which is an estimated extra $85 for a home assessed at $100,000.

“The entire ’15 school tax increase will be reimbursed by the state,” Superintendent Matthew P. McGarrity said. Reflecting on his last five years on the job, he said, “It’s certainly the best budget I’ve seen.”

The spending plan, which must be approved by voters May 19, also was helped by about $1 million more in state aid than was anticipated. The money allowed for spending additions that included $15,000 to restore funding for the freshman football program, which includes about 35 students.

Money cut from the budget in the last few years was made up by donations from parents and fundraising. The school district will once again cover the coaching cost and other team expenses for the program, said Julianne Heinen, public relations director for the district.

It serves as a bridge between middle school and the varsity team, which won the state championship in 2008 and 2011. “Football is something people are really excited about,” Heinen said.

The aid increase allowed for $15,000, instead of the usual $4,000, to go the girls hockey team, a collaboration with the Frontier district. Other new budget lines, helped by the aid, include seven teaching positions ranging from school psychologist to computer tech and technology teachers and two instructors for English as a Second Language.

Savings of about $100,000 came by combining two administrative positions into one. Both the assistant superintendent for human resources and the assistant for special education will be eliminated. Instead, someone will be hired for the new position of executive director for personnel and pupil services, said Jeffrey R. Petrus, assistant superintendent for business.

“I’m very happy,” Petrus said of the budget. “This is the first time in a quite a while we’ve seen a large state aid increase. Overall it’s good news.”

For the second year in a row, the district will take advantage of a new state program that sends refund checks to homeowners to cover school budget tax increase.

To qualify, Petrus is working out the details of efficiencies that equal $560,000 or one percent of the increase in the tax levy. One example he expects to include on the application is the $150,000 saved when the system got new liability and workers compensation insurance rates.

Rebate checks worth the 3.65 percent increase should go out in the fall as they did last year. “This will be the second year of the tax freeze rebate,” Petrus said. “Obviously we’re happy. … Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep doing that.”