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March 28, 2012

Newfane looking for additional cuts

NEWFANE — The administrative team in Newfane will take another look at budget cuts, following a long Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

The district is trying to close a $1.7 million gap in its proposed $34 million budget for the 2012-13 school year. However, Newfane’s property tax cap is 2.11 percent, about $260,000, prompting talk of exceeding the limit with a 60 percent yes vote from residents.

At a meeting last week, Superintendent Christine J. Tibbetts recommended exceeding the tax limit with an 8.44 percent increase. Tuesday, some board members were not in favor of that.

Trustee Joe Flagler said he was out in the community when he got some feedback from residents.

“They’re telling me, ‘I’m not doing 8, Joe,’” Flagler said.

Trustee Patrick Kilcullen said while no one is happy about a tax increase, some increase will be needed to help salvage programs for the district.

“I would have difficulty decimating the school, I would have difficulty decimating the taxpayer,” Kilcullen said. 

Some residents who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting were not in favor of an 8.44 percent increase in the tax levy. Many cited the financial challenges they were facing.

“To exceed the cap by four times the limit is obscene,” Brian Hellner said.

Discussion Tuesday involved looking at cuts, some as small as eliminating travel to bigger items such as closing the Newfane Early Childhood Center. Privatizing pre-kindergarten and moving the kindergarten level from the NECC to the elementary school on Transit Road are also options.

Although it was probably too late to close the NECC for the upcoming school year, the district should think about it, Trustee Frank Westgate said.

“We’re not doing residents and students justice, but it is a valid concept we should look at,” he said.

Board members directed the district’s administrative team to look for additional cuts, but to ask teachers for input. Trustees will meet again until April 12.

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

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