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Lancaster approves 2011-12 school budget proposal
By Lee Chowaniec
Apr 12, 2011, 11:06
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By unanimous vote the Lancaster Central School District (LCSD) approved a resolution to present a final 2011-12 budget to the public for approval in May. The amended budget was announced at $87,601,417. The tax rate for Lancaster residents will increase by $1.28 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation from to $15.95. Cheektowaga residents will now pay a tax rate of $25.72, an increase of $2.06 and Elma’s tax rate will be $337.33, an increase of $26.98.

The writer asked the BOE the following questions on the budget

Chowaniec: “Superintendent Myszka, the Board of Education approved the Lancaster Central Teachers Association contract this evening, approved Memorandums of Understanding with the Administration and Supervisory Association, the Association of Personnel, the Association of Substitute Teachers, the Managerial Administration and the Confidential Staff."

“You stated that $1,323,750 was saved by wage concessions by all school staff. There was earlier discussion about a wage freeze. Could you explain what those wage concessions are?”

Superintendent Myszka: “It’s a reduction in salary. If an employee were scheduled to receive a 3% raise, he will now receive a 1.25% salary increase. Whatever the increase was to be everyone will now receive a 1.25% increase.”

Chowaniec: “So all staff will be receiving a 1.25% salary increase?”

Superintendent Myszka: “Right.”

(Comment: The teachers union agreed to forfeit their 3.40% step increase for the coming year. They will not receive a two step increase the following year.)

Chowaniec: “Considering the significant tax rate increase with this budget, it is imperative that the district clearly defines why and how this budget came to be. Therefore, I will ask the following. How much of the reserves is the district going to use to reduce the budget? Fund balance and other reserves?”

Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jamie Phillips answered $8.85 in reserves; $5.5 million in reserves and $3.3 million in fund balance reserve will be utilized.

Chowaniec: “What is the tax levy increase?”

Superintendent Myszka: “For Lancaster it is a 9.6% increase.”

Chowaniec: “What is the tax rate percentage increase?”

Superintendent Myszka: “For the Town of Lancaster it is 8.7%.

Chowaniec: “The community is not going to warmly accept a budget that increases taxes by 8.7%; if at all. If the district had to go to a contingency budget, what are we looking at in lowering expenditures and reducing the tax rate?”

Superintendent Myszka: “If we have to go to contingency we have to cut the budget another $300,067, approximately.”

Chowaniec: “Where would that money come from? What would be cut?”

Superintendent Myszka: “Equipment.”

Chowaniec: “And what would that reduce the tax rate to?”

Superintendent Myszka: “It would reduce the tax rate to a 7.79% increase; $15.81/$1,000 asessed valuation.

Chowaniec: “Unfortunately, I missed the last budget work session. I know how hard this board has worked and how difficult it was to come to get to this budget proposal, but you have a difficult job to sell this budget proposal to the public and most likely will have to go to contingency should a public that has been inundated with tax increases decide to vote the proposed budget down; despite the fact that the contingency budget bears little difference.”

“This past year the town tax levy increased by 14.0% and the Ad Volorem portion of the budget increased 6.33%. Town taxpayers are being inundated with tax increases and live in the highest taxed state in the nation.”

“It is imperative that the community know that the differences between proposed and contingency budgets are minimal. Even then the public out of spite, because of the significant increase in tax rate, may vote the proposal down."

BOE member Joseph Maciejewski interjected that taking into consideration all the cut in aid and with the increases in employee benefits this was the only budget they (BOE) could come up with. "We did the best we could with what we had to work with."

Chowaniec: “Right, but at the same time the public has to be better informed on the reductions in aid, the increase in benefit costs, the spending down of reserves, the wage concessions, how a contingency budget is determined, etc. In the past, people like me had to ferret out such information by examining budget-budget comparisons."

"Lastly, the LCTA's accepting the wage concession contract, which led to other staff agreeing to like concessions, made this proposal more palpable to people like myself. Had the staff not made such concessions, I would have been the first one in line to ask where’s the sacrifice?

This is a complex budget and the public needs to know how the district came up with a budget that raises taxes 9.92%.

BOE member Kenneth Graber: “It has been a long hard process with the budget and I hope the community knows what we have gone through. Teachers have been supportive along with the other staff in making wage concessions.” He went on to say that it does not behoove the childrens best interest in trying to save a few bucks in the process. “We don’t sit in a room and try to figure out how to raise taxes but to accomplish what’s best for the children. If the voters want to or not want to vote for this budget, that’s their prerogative.”

Two residents spoke declaring they appreciated the hard work performed by the BOE and were supportive of the proposed budget. They also spoke on how residents could sacrifice $10 per month (or more) of assessed valuation to preserve programs, staff and services that provides the children of the community with an excellent education; now and in the future.

Bottom line

Spending increases by $1.7 million, a 2.05% increase – from $85.84 million (2010-11) to $87.60 million 2011-12.

Tax Rate increases by 8.70%, from $14.67 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation to $15.95.

A contingency budget tax rate would increase from $14.67/$1,000 to $15.81, a 7.79% increase.

Wage concessions were made but all staff members will receive a 1.25% salary increase this year.

Through the wage concession agreement there will be no staff or program cuts.

Taxes on a $200,000 assessed home:

2010-11 - 200 X $14.67 = $2,934

2011-12 proposed budget: 200 X 15.95 = $3,190; a $256 increase

2011-12 contingency budget: 200 X 15.81 = $3,162; a $228 increase

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