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Ken-Ton School Board plans to adopt budget with zero tax increase

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board plans to adopt a final budget on Tuesday that holds the line on taxes and closes an estimated $1.9 million budget gap in the $160.7 million budget.

Assistant Superintendent of Finance John Brucato said the School Board was able to close the gap without raising taxes, while simultaneously adding programming to the schools.

"We are very pleased with that," Brucato said. "Right now, it's up to the New York State Assembly and Senate to agree on a budget, because that's a big piece of our revenue."

Brucato said that even without final state aid numbers in place, the board is confident in adopting a budget that uses conservative revenue estimates for state aid.

The Ken-Ton district for several years has faced budget gaps that prompted consolidating schools, laying off staff and higher taxes.

The 2017-18 budget paints a much more positive fiscal picture – adding staff and programs while keeping a zero percent increase in the tax levy, which means no increase in the school tax rate, said Brucato.

He said this year the district balanced the budget by establishing a long-term lease of the Roosevelt Elementary School, revising health care estimates, lowering utility costs, moving a psychologist position to a grant program and making payroll modifications.

The good news is that the district will be able to add five new science teachers for a new elementary school program; offer summer school to all grades, rather than just the high school; add an assistant principal at Kenmore-West; add one and half teachers on special assignment at the elementary building; and add a counselor at Kenmore-West.

The district also expects to receive an undetermined aid package from the state to minimize the impact from the closing of the Huntley Power Plant. This past year the district received $2.2 million in special assistance, about 80 percent of what the district had been receiving annually from Huntley. The state fund is expected to pay the district 65 percent next year, but local state leaders have argued for the funding to remain at or above the 2017 levels.

The Electric Generation Facility Mitigation Fund was set up last year by the state to support communities that lost revenues from the closure of the Huntley and Dunkirk power plants.

This funding is not part of the school's budget planning, the superintendent said, noting that these funds are not guaranteed and the district could not rely on the money.
The district had built up a reserve fund to prepare for the closing of the Huntley Plant, but Brucato said part of the district's goal after consolidating schools has been to rely less on reserves.

The proposed $160 million is up 2.26 percent from the current budget of $157,110,733. The proposed tax rate of $49.24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is based on the current equalization rate of 40.5 percent – a true rate at 100 percent valuation of $19.94 per $1,000. With  zero increase in the tax levy, an average taxpayer with a $100,000 home (the same in both the Village of Kenmore and Town of Tonawanda) will continue to pay an annual school tax of $1,994 per year.

The budget information is posted on the school website. A public hearing and information session will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 9  in the Philip Sheridan Building. The budget vote will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 16 in Hoover Elementary School, 199 Thorncliff Road, Kenmore. In addition to the budget proposal, voters will decide on a resolution to purchase 14 buses at a total cost of $1.3 million, and elect two School Board members.

The adoption is on the agenda for the Board of Education meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Philip Sheridan Building Community Room, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore.






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