Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

April 11, 2013

District keeps tax increase at 2 percent

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

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.

Trustee Edward Sandell voiced concerns about the amount of reserves being used, which would hurt the district in the future. He voted in favor of the budget, but did not agree with the audit committee’s recommended 2 percent tax levy increase.

“I’m concerned we are taking away from future boards,” Sandell said.

Lockport will see some big increases in the benefits line of the budget, which will increase about $3.1 million in 2013-14 to a total of $21.7 million. That is largely due to increase in the state teacher and employee retirement systems.

Expenses in the Teacher Retirement System will jump about $1 million or 26.5 percent for the district, to a total cost of about $5.1 million next year. The Employee Retirement System will go up about $151,000 or 14.18 percent to $1.2 million.

A public hearing on the budget will be held May 8.

LOCKPORT CITY SCHOOLS 2013-14 BUDGET BY THE NUMBERS TOTAL: $83.063 million, up about $3.1 million or 3.96 percent in spending TAX LEVY: Roughly $36 million, an increase of $692,000 or 2 percent, well below the tax cap of 5.04 percent STATE AID: $39.67 million, about $966,000 or 2.5 percent more than the current school year TAX EFFECT: If nothing changes, estimated impact would see a 50 cent per $1,000 increase in tax rate BUDGET HEARING: May 8

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.