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Barker schools to hold hearing on $18.3 million budget plan

BARKER – The Barker Board of Education will hold a public hearing on its proposed $18.3 million budget for 2015-16 at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Barker High School, 1628 Quaker Road.

The budget is down $228,315 from the current budget, largely attributed to “several teacher retirements,” according to Business Administrator Carol Heiligenthaler.

“Due to declining enrollment, we do not have to replace them,” she added.

Barker also continues to share a superintendent and director of technology with Royalton-Hartland, as well as some programs “that help keep our costs under control,” Heiligenthaler added.

The Barker and Roy-Hart school boards recently voted to extend agreements to share Roger Klatt as superintendent and James Luckman as director of technology for another year. Klatt will enter his third year as a shared superintendent while it will be Luckman’s second year serving the two districts.

The proposed tax levy for the 2015-16 school year is $4,072,543, up 2 percent over the current budget and well below the 5.2 percent tax levy increase allowed under the state tax cap for the district.

Heiligenthaler warned that tax rates are estimated at this time of the year and cannot take into account state aid, which is not known until late summer, and the veterans’ exemption, which was recently adopted by the School Board.

The estimated tax rate for 2015-16 is $16.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a 32-cent increase.

But Klatt said eligible district residents will receive a rebate check to reimburse them for the property tax increase difference between the 2013-14 budget and the proposed 2015-16 budget because “Barker stayed within its tax cap limit and met the state’s efficiency plan requirements, or one percent equivalent savings, on the tax levy.

“So, when accounting for the tax rebate, there will be no increase in taxes,” he said.

He also pointed out that because expenses have decreased to reflect a drop in enrollment and in funding, the overall budget has gone down for the third consecutive year.

The Barker district also relies on a property tax abatement agreement with Somerset Operating Co., formerly AES Somerset Corp., a coal-burning power plant in Somerset. The company, which is the county’s largest taxpayer, received a one-year extension of its payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement in early January from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.

Under the agreement, the school district will receive slightly more than $3 million for 2015-16, while Niagara County will get $1.61 million for 2016 and the Town of Somerset will receive $473,600 for 2016.

The PILOT agreements approved by the IDA have decreased steadily in recent years. The 675-megawatt plant has been in and out of operation due to fluctuations in the demand for coal-fired electricity.

Klatt said, “The PILOTs brought a consistency of payments which allowed us to better plan for our budgets.”

Residents will vote on the budget from noon to 8 p.m. May 19 at the high school.

They also will elect three candidates from a field of four to the Board of Education. Incumbent Randall Atwater is running for re-election in a field that includes newcomers William Moffitt, Virginia Voss and Candice Gancasz. Current Board President Ronald Clemens and board member Gordon Kenyon are not seeking re-election.