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April 5, 2012

Lockport district adopts tax hike

LOCKPORT — Thanks to an extra $1 million in aid after last week’s passage of a state budget, Lockport City Schools will be raising its tax levy by 1.5 percent, well below its legal limit.

The $79.8 million budget is an $894,791 or a 1.13 percent increase in spending from the current school year. It’s about $500,000 more than the budget presented last month, which was before a state budget was passed last week.

In the state budget, schools saw an increase of $200 million from what Gov. Andrew Cuomo had originally proposed in January. For Lockport City Schools, state aid went up to $38 million in state aid, $1 million more than Cuomo had proposed. It’s also about $1 million more that what Lockport will receive for this school year.

For the tax levy, the district will raise about $34.6 million from taxpayers, an increase of about 1.5 percent or $512,000. That is lower than Lockport’s legal property tax cap of 2.28 percent.

If assessments were to remain the same, taxpayers with a $75,000 home and the senior STAR exemption would see an increase of $5.51. Taxpayers with a $75,000 home and the basic STAR exemption would see an increase of $16.63.

Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley unveiled the final version of the Lockport budget to Board of Education members Wednesday night. The extra bump in aid was what Lockport needed, she said.

“This is what we were looking for,” Bradley said.

Aside from lowering the amount needed in taxes, the extra $1 million allowed Lockport to bring back a math teacher for academic intervention services at Emmet Belknap. The amount needed from the district’s fund balance was reduced by $501,000 and $39,000 more was marked for employee retirement system costs.

The budget features no layoffs but does have 15 retirements including one administrator. Seven of the retirements will not be replaced.

Vice President David Nemi said the budget allows the district to replenish reserves and be fiscally responsible while being able to share the extra money with taxpayers.

“I really like what we did,” he said.

Lockport School Board members adopted the 2012-13 budget by an 8-1 margin, with Trustee Diane Phelps voting no. People in the community are facing rising costs and can’t afford to pay more in taxes. There was more the board could have done to reduce the levy, Phelps said.

“I wished we would have finished the job,” she said.

Contact reporter Joe Olenickat 439-9222, ext. 6241.

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