Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 27, 2013

Wilson budget a work in progress

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — WILSON – The Wilson School District will report a tax cap override to the state education department, but that doesn’t mean the district has to go through with it.

According to the property tax cap law, school districts must use a state formula to figure out the legal limit they can raise the local tax levy. They have to report that number — or that number and the tax levy increase officials may go with — to the state education department by Friday.

To help with the current version of the 2013-14 budget, Wilson will report a 7 percent rise in the tax levy, higher than the legal tax cap of 5 percent. Board of Education members voted 6-1, with President Timothy Kropp dissenting, Tuesday night.

However, reporting that number does not tie Wilson to anything. Business Administrator John Montesanti said the levy can be adjusted as the Board of Education sees fit until they adopt a budget in April.

And board members seemed to feel the process was far from finished.

“It’s not done,” said Vice President Jack Clement, when asked by a resident if he was comfortable with raising the levy by 7 percent. “No, I don’t (feel comfortable.) It’s not over yet.”

If districts wish to raise the levy by overriding the cap, that would require 60 percent of residents saying yes on the May 21 budget vote. Otherwise the budget fails, even with a majority vote.

Kropp said he believed the board could get the levy under 5 percent. There are some revenue possibilities available, such as the $203 million the state has set aside, he said.

“I think we can do this, with a little bit of luck from the state,” Kropp said. “It seems every time we get a scare tactic by the state or the government it doesn’t end up the tremendous amount of money they portray.”

Also Tuesday, the board received a list of some possible cuts which totaled $100,000 to $200,000 if they were all enacted. The cuts included a retirement, changing phone service providers, sharing positions with another district and some transportation cuts.

The $24.3 million budget would need $11.6 million from the levy, as well as $11.3 million in state aid, which is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s projected budget. About $650,000 will be used from reserves.

If the district goes with raising the levy by 5 percent, the total would be about $11.4 million, a difference of roughly $220,000. To do that, more revenue would have to be found or cuts made, Montesanti said.

But nothing is final yet, as there are a lot of unknowns outside Wilson’s control, officials said Tuesday.

Wilson will present a final budget on March 26 and adopt the spending plan April 9. Voters will decide the fate of the 2013-14 budget on May 21.

In other district news, Montesanti said petition for those wishing to run for a Board of Education seat will be available in the district office by March 4. Kropp and Board Member Mark Randall are up for re-election, both seats are three-year terms.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.