By Michael Canfield
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — MIDDLEPORT — Based on preliminary discussions, property owners in the Royalton-Hartland Central School District could see a nearly 3 percent tax increase with approval of the 2014-15 school budget.
The 2.9 percent or $275,000 increase in the tax levy is as high as the district can go under the calculated 2 percent tax cap, Superintendent Roger J. Klatt said. The current numbers are based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget and could change when the state budget is adopted, he added.
"Step one is to determine what your needs are in terms of tax levy," he said, adding that creation of the 2014-2015 budget is in its early stages. "As the state budget is finalized, we'll have more information to develop our school budget."
The Board of Education was presented with the numbers during a budget meeting Wednesday evening. At a previous budget meeting, the board was presented with a $640,000 budget gap, which was tentatively filled by eliminating several positions, equaling $84,160, and using $571,000 of unappropriated fund balance, according to Business Administrator Kelly Griffith.
"We do have rainy day funds," she said, "and this is a rainy day."
The tentatively eliminated positions are a full-time monitor, a part-time music teacher and a full-time sign language interpreter, who is no longer needed in the district, Griffith said.
If the Board of Education decides against raising taxes by 2.9 percent, the budget gap will be larger, according to Griffith.
"The 2.94 percent has to be where we go," said board member Keith Bond. "There's no other option."
Board President Patricia Riegle said she is "concerned" about using so much of the unappropriated fund balance.
"We have to use it because that's what the governor wants us to do," board member Jeffrey Waters said. "That's where we're at. They're not going to let us go on if they keep seeing a surplus. They're going to stomp on us even more."
Griffith agreed with Waters.
"This is a concerted political effort to reduce school district fund balances down to nothing," she said. "Eventually, you're going to have to use it to survive, unless something major changes politically."
A final proposed budget will be ready for public review in April, Klatt said. It will be put up to a public vote in May.Contact reporter Michael Canfield at 439-9222, ext. 6246, or follow him on Twitter @MikeCanfield36.