Dunkirk school board readies for budget vote

Less than two weeks remain until voters head to the polls to vote on area school districts’ 2014-15 budgets, and the Dunkirk Board of Education seems ready.

Dunkirk Business Administrator William Thiel, during the board’s public hearing on the budget Thursday, gave an overall review of the district’s proposed $41,177,757 budget, a .62 percent increase over the current year.

The total tax levy, if approved, would increase by .95 percent to $9,705,854, mainly due to a $73,000 slump in the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with NRG Energy Inc.

“The levy limit we’ve proposed for this year allows the district taxpayers to participate in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s property tax freeze,” Thiel said. “For anybody who’s STAR-qualified, any increase in taxes, 2014 minus 2013, will be rebated in a check to be received right before you get to vote in November.”

The tax rate is estimated to decrease slightly in the city of Dunkirk (down 13 cents to $22.91 per thousand dollars of assessed value), as well as in the full-value rate (decrease 10 cents to $18.79), but Sheridan’s rate should increase significantly to $28.68 (up $1.69) and the town of Dunkirk’s may go up to $26.28 (up 58 cents).

“Sheridan’s total assessment is up about $1.5 million and their equalization rate is down about 4.5 percent, so unfortunately, that means that town will share in a greater percentage of the tax roll going forward,” Thiel said.

Thiel reminded the board that tight staffing levels are maintained in the budget proposal, as well as selective reductions of surplus budget items to offset increases in payroll and benefit costs.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the line, if you will,” he remarked.

Administrative costs total $4,068,039 in the budget, with $30,259,085 allotted for programming and $6,850,633 for capital costs.

Total revenues should increase by $254,361 over the current year to balance the budget, mainly due to a significant increase in state aid.

“We continue to use a large amount of fund balance against the budget,” Thiel pointed out. “We’ve been fortunate to control expenses during the year to the point where we haven’t had to use that on an annual basis, but our surpluses are shrinking, and we’re eliminating surpluses from the budget, so that will change in the near future.”

Regarding the school board election, two candidates are running for three seats, with the third seat decided by write-in votes. The two candidates are incumbent David Damico and newcomer Adam Reisenweber.

Dr. Matthew Fountain is not seeking re-election and Bridget Majka will not seek election after her appointment to the board last year.

The budget vote and school board election for Dunkirk is May 20 from noon to 9 p.m. in the auxiliary gymnasium at the high school, the only polling site.

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