Schools ready for budget vote

On Tuesday, area residents will head to the polls to vote on their local school budget, board members and other possible school-related referendums. Here is a summary of what residents will be voting on:

BROCTON CENTRAL SCHOOL

The district’s proposed 2014-2015 budget includes expenses increasing by a significant amount, but that is mainly due to costs associated with the state-aidable EXCEL Capital Project.

The proposal comes in at $16,554,423, an increase of 8.21 percent, or $1,256,090. However, that large increase is not seen in the tax levy, which should climb upwards by 1.45 percent, or $65,226, to $4,552,172. That amount is just under Brocton’s tax cap, 1.46 percent this year.

Increases in salaries and benefits also play a role in the cost climb associated with this year’s proposed budget in Brocton. As a result, the true-value tax rate in the district may increase by 21 cents to $23.94 per thousand dollars of assessed value.

Staffing cuts are not expected, should the budget pass, but nothing additional is being proposed, either. Some retirements may not be filled.

State aid increased significantly, mainly due to a boost in building aid to cover the capital project. The total amount increased 12.85 percent over the current year, or $1,163,862, to $10,221,711. However, the gap elimination adjustment continues to impact Brocton greatly, with a loss of $2.2 million in aid over the last five years.

Superintendent John Hertlein deemed the potential budget as “sustaining” the district and getting it through another year.

For the school board election, one candidate, incumbent Thomas DeJoe, is running for one five-year seat.

Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the new gymnasium foyer.

CASSADAGA VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL

At Cassadaga Valley Central School, the proposed budget for 2014-2015 is $20,093,000, up $125,302 from last year.

There will be two propositions on the ballot this year. The first one will be to approve the purchase of three school buses for the 2014-15 school year. Buses will be financed over five years and the district will receive a 90 percent reimbursement from state aid. Another proposition will be to establish a Capital Improvement Reserve Fund not to exceed $800,000. This acts as a savings account for future capital projects and fund the majority of the local cost improvements and repairs to school buildings and grounds.

The tax levy for the district is set at 1.08 percent, which is an increase of $5,151,592. The amount of increase allowed under the tax cap is 1.46 percent. The district has kept under the tax cap.

The district has eight teachers and three non-instructional staff members retiring. With the savings achieved from these retirements, they are proposing to restore some positions that had been previously cut.

Board member David Christy is seeking re-election and newcomer Beverly LeBaron is also running for one board position.

Voting will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. in the middle/high school cafeteria.

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE CENTRAL SCHOOL

Chautauqua Lake Central School is once again proposing a budget under the tax cap.

Total proposed 2014-2015 budget is $20,731,925. The proposed tax levy is $11,021,016, which is at the district’s tax cap of 1.99 percent.

School officials would not release the tax rate for 2014-2015, saying, it “is contingent on final assessments and will be determined by the towns in August.” The 2013-2014 full-value tax rate was $8.92 per thousand dollars assessed valuation.

The district’s five-year tuition agreement with Ripley Central School was able to stabilize programs like electives, AP classes and college credit courses as well as add classes and opportunities in the middle and high school. The district was also able to maintain programs and staffing in the elementary school. The board of education decided critical maintenance of the buildings and grounds could not longer be deferred, so there is some increase in the budget for the most pressing needs.

There are three seats up on the school board with three people running: current board members Deborah Cross-Fuller and Jay Baker and newcomer Mary Lee Talbot. Current board member Jason Delcamp is not running for re-election.

The vote will be held Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the main entrance rotunda lobby, 100 N. Erie Street, Mayville. This will be the district’s first year using the county’s optical scan voting machines.

DUNKIRK CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT

A $73,000 slump in the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with NRG Energy Inc., as well as rises in salaries and benefits, led to a minor increase in the tax levy for the potential 2014-2015 budget.

Officials proposed a $41,177,757 budget, which constitutes a .62 percent increase ($254,361) over the current year. The tax levy may increase by .95 percent ($91,338) to $9,705,854, which is well below Dunkirk’s tax cap of 4.45 percent.

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 rate may increase that much because its total assessment is up about $1.5 million and the equalization rate dropped 4.5 percent, meaning Sheridan will share a larger portion in the tax roll going forward.

No staff members are expected to hit the unemployment line, though some may get shuffled around to take on responsibilities of positions being emptied due to retirements.

Total state aid increased 2.7 percent ($635,095) over the current year to $24,193,613, which will help alleviate rising costs.

For the school board election, two candidates are running for three seats, with the third to potentially be decided by write-in votes. The candidates are incumbent David Damico and newcomer Adam Reisenweber. Each seat has a three-year term.

Dr. Matthew Fountain and Bridget Majka are not seeking re-election this year.

Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the auxiliary gymnasium at the high school.

FORESTVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL

Forestville’s total budget at $11,844,100 is up 3.1 percent from last year’s total of $11,483,188.

The district was able to eliminate that gap as a result of an increase of $203,456 in what was received in state aid, using an additional $75,331 in fund balance, $27,400 in other revenues throughout the budget and the stated 1.51 percent increase in the tax levy.

The 1.51 percent tax levy represents the lowest increase for the school in the last five years.

The district is proposing the purchase of one 65-passenger bus and one 29-passenger bus. The cost of these purchases is to be offset by trading in two 65-passenger buses and one 20-passenger bus. The total proposed purchase is not to exceed $105,000.

President Sylvester Cleary, Vice-President Carol Woodward and Board member Rodney Rodgers are seeking re-election and running unopposed.

Voting will be held in the High School Auditorium Tuesday from 1 to 8 p.m.

FREDONIA CENTRAL SCHOOL

Initially facing more than a $1.3 million shortfall in state operating aid due to the gap elimination adjustment, the largest of any district in Chautauqua County, Fredonia managed to scrape together a 2014-15 budget with only a minor increase to the tax levy.

The proposal stands at $29,651,244, a 3.12 percent increase, or $925,118, over the current year. That increase is mainly due to $1.1 million in skyrocketing salaries and benefits costs, including the addition of universal pre-kindergarten salaries, with the exit of Dunkirk from the combined program. The Teachers’ Retirement System cost holds the largest increase over other benefit lines.

The estimated tax levy may increase by .87 percent, or $131,804, to $15,210,823. That amount meets the tax cap requirement, which just so happens to be .87 percent, as well.

Based upon the budget proposal, and subject to changes in assessed values and/or equalization rates, estimated property tax rates include a 99 cent increase per thousand dollars of assessed value in Pomfret, 36 cents in Arkwright, 37 cents in Portland, 29 cents in Sheridan and 27 cents in Dunkirk.

No staffing cuts are incurred, though a retiring middle school teacher will not be replaced, saving the district $87,000.

Total state aid should come in at $12,667,509, an increase of 6.3 percent, or $748,988, over the current year. However, Fredonia continues to face funding levels below the 2007-2008 aid rate.

For the school board election, three candidates are running for two five-year seats. They are incumbent R. Thomas Hawk, newcomer Cristina Gegenschatz and former board member Daniel Ihasz.

Edith Byrne is not seeking re-election.

Polls will be open from 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the high school cafeteria.

GOWANDA CENTRAL SCHOOL

The Gowanda Central School is proposing a total budget of $28,208,720, an increase of $820,233 or 2.99 percent over last year’s budget. The proposed tax levy is an increase of 1.46 percent, which does not exceed the tax cap. The tax levy is proposed at $4,890,814. The estimated tax rate per thousand dollars of assessed value is $15.20, a $0.22 increase over last year.

This year’s proposed budget includes the elimination of one teaching assistant, two elementary teachers and one Seneca language teacher. The teaching assistant is no longer required by a student’s Individualized Education Plan. The two elementary reductions are due to low enrollment and will affect grades 4 and 5. Class sizes in grades 4 will be 20 students and in grade 5, 21 students.

The proposed budget does use reserves to make up for revenue shortfall including $106,997 from employee benefit reserve, $31,590 from unemployment reserve, $619,965 from retirement reserve and $1,809,351 from appropriated fund balance. The district is also proposing to use $303,954 of debt service fund.

Voters will also vote on a proposition. The district is requesting to buy two 66-passenger buses from the vehicle purchase reserve not to exceed a cost of $225,417. This purchase will not have an impact on the budget and the district will trade in two full-sized buses.

Four candidates are also running for three three-year terms on the Board of Education. Incumbent Mark Nephew is running against Joseph DeCarlo, Mary Stratton and Peter Delpriore. Voting will take place Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., in the middle school library.

NORTH COLLINS CENTRAL SCHOOL

The North Collins Central School District is proposing a budget of $15,241,754, an increase of 2.49 percent over last year’s budget. The proposed tax levy is $5,166,082, a 2.83 percent increase. The tax levy is within the tax cap. The proposed average tax rate is $21.31 per thousand dollars of assessed value, an increase over the current average tax rate is $20.72.

All programs are intact in the proposed budget and the district is adding positions. The district is adding 1.3 FTE special education teachers and two teacher aides. The district was also able to keep costs down by consolidating bus runs, restructuring the business office, reorganizing administrative responsibilities and combining CSE and CPSE responsibilities with the school psychologist.

Voters will also be voting on one proposition in addition to the budget. The district is proposing a vehicle purchase not to exceed $255,000 to be paid from the bus and vehicle reserve. There will be no impact on the budget. While the final purchase is still being worked on, the district is anticipating a purchase of two 41-passenger buses and one van.

For the board of education, Mark Snow is seeking re-election for a five-year term.

Voting will take place Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m., in the North Collins Jr. Sr., High School gym.

PINE VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL

The Pine Valley School District is proposing a budget for 2014-2015 of $15,819,650, or a 5.33 increase. The proposed tax levy is $3,292,848, a $56,768 increase over last year. The tax levy is within the tax cap of a 1.75 percent.

The proposed budget includes $1,060,638 in appropriated fund balance to help balance the budget. The district has seen a lack of state aid from New York state, including foundation aid and the gap elimination adjustment.

The district does have a five-year plan to decrease the amount of appropriated fund balance utilized each budget year. Included in the proposed budget are staff reductions, eliminating a bus garage secretary, and staff development days for teacher aides.

In addition to the budget, voters will be voting on a proposition to purchase three buses not to exceed $275,048. Residents will also vote on five open seats on the board of education. The eight candidates vying for the open seats are Rex Butcher, Jeffrey Chase, Angelo Graziano, Patricia Krenzer, Michael Pease, Stephen Raiport, Montgomery Sticek and Matthew Waag.

Chase, Krenzer, Pease and Waag are all currently serving on the board. The candidates that receive the four highest number of votes will be elected to a three-year term; the candidate who receives the fifth most number of votes will be elected to fill a two-year term due to the resignation of Jo Ann Anderson.

Polls are open on Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m., in the Jr. Sr. High School foyer across from the auditorium. Voters must use the rear entrance of the high school and have to use the elementary driveway to access the rear parking lot due to construction.

RIPLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL

Taxpayers in the Ripley Central School District will see a decrease in taxes for the 2014-2015 budget.

The district is proposing a total budget of $8,681,582 and a tax levy of $2,036,491. This is a 4.85 percent decrease in the tax levy from 2013-2014. The district is under its tax levy limit of 3 percent by $168,533.

Middle and high school students continue to attend Chautauqua Lake Central School. The budget includes an increase for a new phone system and new computers, but this is offset by increases in state aid and property assessment values.

The proposed full-value tax rate is $26.63 per thousand dollars assessed valuation, a $1.50 decrease from 2013-2014.

In addition to the budget, residents will vote on a proposition to purchase two buses, one with a wheelchair lift, from the capital vehicle reserve for $245,000 and a $2 million capital project for roof and boiler replacements and work on the masonry, sidewalks and parking lot of the school building. This project is 97.5 percent funded through state building aid.

There are also two seats up for election on the board of education. Current board members Ted Rickenbrode and Robert Bentley are running unopposed.

The vote will be take place Tuesday from 2 to 8 p.m. in the distance learning lab, room 123.

SILVER CREEK CENTRAL SCHOOL

Silver Creek Central School District has presented a 2014-2015 budget under the tax cap.

The district has proposed a total budget of $22,447,044. This is almost a $2 million increase in the total budget from 2013-2014 due to the capital project which is being funded through state building aid.

The proposed tax levy is $5,777,850, a 2.05 percent increase. This is below the district’s tax cap including exclusions and carryover of 2.76 percent. The budget maintains programs and includes a few added electives in the business field and iPads for some students.

The proposed full-value tax rate is $17.97 per thousand dollars assessed value, a 37 cent increase from 2013-2014.

Residents will also vote on a proposition to purchase one bus from the capital vehicle reserve for $108,987.

Two board of education seats are up for election. Current board members Matt Bogosian and Steve Boothe are running unopposed.

The vote will take place Tuesday from 1 to 9 p.m. in the high school lobby. The district will be using the county’s new optical scan machines.

WESTFIELD ACADEMY AND CENTRAL SCHOOL

The total budget for the 2014-2015 school year is $14,676,435, which represents an increase of $523,421.

Tax levy amounts to 5,813,095 this year, which is a $124,689 increase. This is a 2.2 percent increase.

The district is proposing to purchase one 35-passenger bus and one new Suburban. The cost allowed in the budget for transportation is $699,362.

One teacher is retiring this year, with a restoration of one part-time language teacher and the addition of JV Basketball and JV Softball.

There are no propositions on the ballot this year.

Board members Brenda Backus and Marie Edwards are seeking re-election and running unopposed for two out of three seats. The third seat will be decided by a write-in and whoever gets offered the position has five days to accept or decline. If that person declines the office will appoint someone to a two-year term or hold a special election to decide. The two seats with three-year terms will most likely be offered to Backus and Edwards.

Voting will be held Tuesday in the lobby from 2 to 8 p.m.

Contributing to this report were OBSERVER staff members Greg Fox, Nicole Gugino, Samantha McDonnell and Jasmine Willis. Comments may be sent to editorial@observertoday.com