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April 11, 2013

District keeps tax increase at 2 percent

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Taxpayers would see an average increase of about 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in the Lockport City School District, if district voters give their approval of the 2013-14 budget on May 21.

Board of Education members adopted the 2013-14 spending plan Wednesday night. The $83 million budget is a 3.96 percent or $3.1 million increase in spending and calls for a 2 percent or $692,000 increase in the tax levy, below Lockport’s tax cap of 5.04 percent.

“I think two is palatable,” said Trustee Diane Phelps. “It’s more likely to pass. We need to be mindful of the fixed income community.”

The budget would require roughly $36 million from local taxes, as well as $39.67 million in state aid, which is about $966,000 or 2.5 percent more than what Lockport received during the current school year.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget, Lockport would’ve received just a $16,000 bump in aid. That’s the aid number the district worked with until last month, when a state budget was approved.

Last month, the board decided to figure in the additional $950,000 by splitting the amount between lowering the levy and refreshing some of the reserves. Lockport was planning on using $2.6 million from its reserves, worrying some members about the long-term health of the accounts.

About $440,000 went toward reducing the levy, which meant it went up by 2.75 percent, while the rest would be used to replenish the reserves.

On Wednesday, Board Vice President David Nemi, who also chairs the audit committee, said the $500,000 budgeted to help the district deal with the effects of federal sequestration was taken out. The money was shifted to reducing the levy further, to its final 2 percent increase.

Nemi said he was comfortable with cutting the sequestration protection. Sequestration is a period of automatic federal budget cuts, ended only by action in Congress.

“Eventually, they’ll fix it,” Nemi said.

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