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March 7, 2013

Tax levy rises slightly

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Action - or the lack thereof - in Washington D.C. could lead to an estimated tax levy increase for the Lockport City School District.

At a meeting Wednesday, district officials went through the latest version of the 2013-14 budget, now an $83.5 million spending plan. If it comes to fruition, the budget would raise the tax levy by $1.5 million or 4.47 percent, still below the district’s legal tax cap of 5.04 percent. Taxes would account for about $36 million in revenue.

Wednesday’s version of the budget was roughly $300,000 more than the version presented last month. Most of that was due to expected losses in Title I funding and the infamous federal sequester, the automatic large budget cuts that took effect March 1. 

Lockport City Schools was planning on absorbing a $200,000 loss in Title I money, not because of the sequester but that has been the trend for the past few years, officials said. The district is also expecting to lose $125,000 in special education federal funding and another $167,000 which is directly because of the sequester.

”We added about half a million for fear of losing federal funding,” Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said.

The current version of the 2013-14 budget features a $3.6 million or 4.58 percent increase in spending. A good chunk of that is 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.

Lockport is planning to use $2.6 million in reserves and $2.4 million from its appropriated fund balance. The amount of reserves being used, as well as how little emergency money is being budgeted concerned some board members.

“The reserves are dangerously low,” said Trustee Kevin Pratt.

Board members expect to adopt a budget by March 27. A public hearing will be held May 8 and residents will vote May 21.

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

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