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Budget talks: Barker Schools

Due to declining enrollment, Barker Schools Superintendent Roger Klatt said his district will cut five positions in its proposed 2016-17 spending plan, through attrition and layoffs.

Klatt reported that the district has lost 173 students in the past six years, bringing it to a current level of 778. The district intends to eliminate three teacher positions and will lose one custodian and one clerical position to attrition, which contributes to the $317,000 decrease in spending in the nearly $18 million budget proposed for 2016-17.

The Somerset Operating Co. renegotiated its payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) with Niagara County, the Town of Somerset and Barker School District, resulting in a reduction of the school district’s share to $2,737,050 for the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 school years – a $296,00 loss each year.

The tax levy is increasing 2 percent in the proposed budget, but Klatt said the district will additionally use some of its reserves to balance the budget, in order “to allow district residents to get a rebate for any increases they may have to pay in taxes.” Klatt described the proposed spending plan as the result of “careful budgeting and cautious spending.”

The district continues to share services with the Royalton-Hartland School District, including; the superintendent, director of technology, football and wrestling programs, and occasional transportation.

Residents also will vote on a $1.9 million capital improvements proposition for the central and elementary school buildings, including the replacement of roofs dating to 1985. This project will be funded through the district’s capital reserve fund and will not impact the tax levy, school officials noted.

Proposed budget

Proposed total budget: $17,997,507, down 1.74 percent

Proposed tax levy: $4,153,994, up 2 percent

Tax levy increase allowed under cap: 9.3 percent

Planning to go over tax cap: No.

What would be cut: If the budget does not pass, Klatt said the district would have to “utilize a greater amount of fund balance to make up the difference.”

What could be added: The district plans to reinstate some modified sports and may introduce agricultural education courses, dependent on enrollment.

• What is a tax levy?

The tax levy is the total amount in taxes collected from property owners.

• What is the tax cap?

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo instituted the tax cap three years ago to help control local taxes.

It is billed as a 2 percent tax cap but is actually based on the rate of inflation. Each district’s cap is different because of a complicated formula and can be higher or lower than 2 percent. Districts need 60 percent of votes – called a supermajority – to approve a budget that goes over the tax cap. They only need one vote over 50 percent for a budget below the tax cap to pass.

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Voters go to the polls May 17 to approve or reject the budget and also vote on the propositions and candidates for School Board.

– Teresa Sharp, Niagara correspondent