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Depew School Board passes budget, avoids cuts in staff or programs

Despite a budget shortfall of more than $530,000, the Depew Board of Education was able to pass a proposed budget Tuesday evening that avoided reductions in staff or programs.

The board closed the gap through reductions in contributions to the New York State Retirement System, costs for the Board of Cooperative Educational Services and overtime. The board also was able to redeploy two full-time equivalent positions for a savings of $205,376 in the budget. A reduction of $230,000 in health insurance costs also is expected.

“We were able to realize savings in other areas rather than have to make any reductions in staffing,” Superintendent Jeffrey R. Rabey said. “We have absolutely no layoffs.”

Rabey presented the 2015-2016 budget at Tuesday evening’s board meeting. The total proposed budget is $41.2 million, up by 1.07 percent over this year’s figure of $40.7 million.

The proposed budget includes a 2.92 percent increase in the tax levy, remaining under the state’s 2 percent tax cap. District residents in Cheektowaga and Lancaster would pay $22.10 per $1,000. Both towns are assessed at full market value. A home in either town assessed at $100,000 is looking at a property tax increase of $62.66. Residents eligible for the state’s tax freeze credit would receive a rebate on the increase, Rabey said.

The tax levy comprises $17.2 million of the budget, while estimated state aid makes up about $18.2 million.

Trustee Patrick S. Law asked about sanctions that the district may face because of opt-out rates on standardized testing last week.

“There’s been a little bit of noise at the federal level,” Rabey said, adding that about 45 percent of students in the district opted out. “I don’t think the Legislature would do that. They’d have to sanction every district.”

Math testing starts Wednesday, Rabey said, and the district expects more refusals.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 12 in the high school cafeteria.

Three propositions will be on the ballot: the budget, bus purchases for the district and a nonbinding straw poll on the Veterans’ Tax Exemption. Board President David M. Sheff and Trustee Justin P. Young are up for re-election.

Voting will be held from noon to 9 p.m. in the Cayuga Heights Elementary School library.