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Amherst reassessment won't mean more money for Williamsville schools

One question frequently posed to Williamsville Central Superintendent Scott Martzloff since Amherst reassessed every property: Does the reassessment increase the total money the school district receives?

No, Martzloff said.

"It's like taking a pie," he said. "The size doesn't change. The pieces of the pie are just split up differently among all our residents from the $6 billion worth of property that we have in the Williamsville Central School District. So it has no impact on the amount of revenue that we receive from our local property owners."

The only way for the district to collect more money is for the School Board to increase the tax levy. In the 2017-18 preliminary budget, the tax levy stands at $120.4 million, a 2.67 percent increase over this school year's levy.

In fact, the school tax rate is likely to decrease as the total assessed value of all properties in the district increases and the levy is distributed across a wider base, Martzloff said.

Thomas Maturski, assistant superintendent for finance and management services, said he expects a tax rate decrease of between 2 and 3 percent when the tax rate is established at the board's August meeting, after assessments are finalized in July.

Still, school tax bills will likely increase for property owners who saw the biggest increases in their assessments. Some of the neighborhoods that saw the highest assessment increases -- the Village of Williamsville and pockets of central and east Amherst -- are in the Williamsville district.

The Town of Amherst constitutes 89 percent of the Williamsville district's tax base, with the remainder in the towns of Clarence and Cheektowaga. But the district has no say in the town's 2017 Assessment Equity Project, Martzloff said.

"The school district has no input or right to have any input into the town's reassessment program," he said. "That is completely up to the town and we need to live with those changes."

Board member Shawn P. Lemay said he has heard grumblings from residents about the potential for a "stealth tax" from the reassessment.

The so-called "stealth tax" is, in essence, a backdoor tax attached to revaluations that provide public officials a way to give the impression tax bills are going down when in fact only the tax rate is. The lower rate can easily be offset by a rise in a property owner's assessment.

But Maturski said such a tactic is no longer possible.

"That cannot happen with school districts anymore because of the tax cap," he said.

Meanwhile, the district has balanced a preliminary 2017-18 budget totaling $186,135,210, a 1.7 percent increase in spending. The 2.67 percent increase in the levy is at the district's state-imposed tax cap. The levy is increasing due to normal contractual obligations and also fluctuations in revenue, including a projected $175,000 decrease in state aid, according to the district.

A $1.4 million budget deficit was closed when at least 30 teachers accepted a $30,000 retirement incentive.

"It looks like we're in pretty good shape," Martzloff said at Tuesday's School Board meeting.

The preliminary budget adds a new summer school program for high school students with special needs, allowing them to stay in the district for summer school rather than attending an Erie 1 BOCES program. The budget also adds a full time special education teacher for a new high school class of 15 students.

A budget work session and public forum will be held at 7 p.m. March 21 in the district offices boardroom at 105 Casey Road. The School Board is looking to adopt a budget at its April 4 meeting.

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