Weekly Feature

2017-08-17 / Front Page

School Board sets tax rate


The West Seneca Board of Education recently adopted the 2017-18 tax levy and tax rates for the townships within the school district, with the figures coming in lower than anticipated during the May budget process.

Janice Lewandowski, financial and computer services manager in the district’s business office, presented the public with the numbers.

The adopted tax levy of $59.88 million includes the following rates per $1,000 assessed value: West Seneca, $43.56; Cheektowaga, $17.42; and Orchard Park and Hamburg, both $33.51.

“Back when we did our budget newsletter and budget presentations, we were projecting a tax rate increase in the Town of West Seneca of 69 cents. I’m happy to report that the actual tax rate increase will be 40 cents,” Lewandowski said.

The marginally smaller increase is due to a sizeable growth in the town’s assessments, she said.

“That plays into it,” Lewandowski said.

Once again, the board has stayed within the tax cap limitation set by the state, qualifying taxpayers for the New York State Property Tax Relief credit.

“We have said that on a basic STAR property, the tax increase on a $100,000 house would be $20. We’re now estimating about $11. On a senior STAR, instead of $6 it would be $2,” Lewandowski said.

This year has been positive for the district’s budget, a welcome change from the near decade of fiscal strife between board members and the state.

For the first time in seven years, the district has been able to add positions, including four full-time educators in the area of special education; one each in English as a second language, occupational therapy and maintenance; and a part-time school counselor. Also, all nine positions to be vacated this year will be filled.

The district spent a number of years with the label “severe fiscal stress” and as of the previous budget, was re-listed as a district susceptible to fiscal stress.

What was a healthy fund balance, or surplus, of nearly $21 million in 2010 was depleted by 2015 and has since been rebuilt to an estimated $10.6 million.

The district anticipates $47.4 million in state aid for the 2017-18 academic year, finally surpassing that of 2009-10 when the gap elimination adjustment was implemented. The GEA, which has since been ended, helped the state budget but significantly reduced aid to the state’s school districts. In that time, the district lost more than $36 million in state aid.

To maintain the integrity of its program offerings, the tax levy was increased drastically, three schools were closed and nearly 250 staff members were eliminated.

Graduation rates in the district have continued to rise and currently stand at a rate of 92 percent. West Seneca is ranked 11th in Erie County and second among Buffalo’s first-ring suburbs.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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