OBSERVER Staff Report
Voters from districts throughout the area will pull levers May 19 to decide how their schools proceed for the next educational year; and in a period rife with uncertaintly in aid and funding, many schools have kept proposed budgets tightly in check.
Of 10 school districts within the OBSERVER coverage area, six have kept their overall proposed budget increases below 3 percent. Of these six districts, three - Brocton, Cassadaga Valley and Dunkirk - have proposed overall increases below 1 percent, one district - Gowanda - has zero proposed increase and one district - Fredonia - has proposed a 0.16 percent decrease.
Some school districts with larger budget increases are incorporating building project costs that are fully covered by outside funding sources (e.g. EXCEL aid). For example, when building project debt services are factored out, Forestville Central School's overall 7.23 percent increase is reduced to 3.01 percent and Pine Valley Central School's overall 10.8 percent increase is reduced to 1.8 percent. EXCEL aid is also expected to help reduce Westfield Academy and Central School's tax levy by 0.17 percent even though their overall proposed budget represents a 3.73 percent increase.
While all school districts have school board terms up for election, the majority will see incumbent members returning, barring a revolution of write-in votes.
Ripley is the only school district with a contested race, featuring incumbent board member Melinda Gervasio running against newcomer Michael Boll. While non-incumbent candidates are also running for election in Fredonia, Gowanda and Westfield, at least one incumbent has chosen not to run for re-election in each district, almost assuring these candidates a victory. Westfield, in fact, has one less official candidate than available school board seats, with at least one seat expected to be filled by write-in vote.
A breakdown of budgets, propositions and school board races are outlined below, as well as voting times and locations for each district. All district votes will be held Tuesday, May 19.
BROCTON CENTRAL SCHOOL
The proposed 2009-10 budget for Brocton Central School calls for total expenditures of $14,798,193, an increase of $116,428 - or 0.79 percent - over the current school year budget.
The estimated tax rate for the proposed spending plan is $20.40 per $1,000 true property value, an increase of 1 cent over the 2008-09 tax rate. The total tax levy is $3,470,815, an increase of $63,340, or 1.86 percent, over the previous levy. The tax levy constitutes 23 percent of the total proposed budget.
One five-year board member term will be voted upon. Incumbent board member Tom DeJoe is running for this seat unopposed.
Voting will be held from noon to 8 p.m. in the foyer of the new gymnasium.
CASSADAGA VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL
The Cassadaga Valley School Board proposes a 2009-10 budget of $19,910,000, an increase of $396,000 - or 0.20 percent - over the current school year budget. The estimated tax rate, however, is expected to remain unchanged at $16.51 per $1,000 true property value.
The projected tax levy for the proposed budget is $4,518,040, an increase of $100,040 - or 2.26 percent - over the 2008-09 tax levy. The tax levy comprises 22.7 percent of the total proposed expenditures.
One five-year board member term will be voted upon, for which incumbent board member David Christy is running unopposed.
The district will also vote upon a proposal to purchase buses and similar vehicles at a cost not to exceed $96,953.
Voting will be held from 2-8 p.m. inside the middle school gymnasium.
DUNKIRK CITY SCHOOL
The Dunkirk City School District is proposing a flat tax rate for the 2009-10 school year.
The proposed budget amount totals $36,333,819, a 0.07 percent increase over the previous school year.
The proposed tax rate remains unchanged at $22.78 per $1,000 assessed property value for the city of Dunkirk, $25.49 per $1,000 assessed property value in the town of Dunkirk and $30.81 per $1,000 assessed property value in the town of Sheridan. Last year, $880,000 was rolled over into the fund balance to offset against property taxes. The proposed budget intends to roll $603,962 over for the same purpose. The local property tax levy is also proposed to remain the same, at $9,614,516, and would comprise 26 percent of the proposed budget.
Incumbent board member Gary Pignataro and board clerk Bridget Majka are running unopposed for re-election. The term for each seat is three years.
Voting will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Voters from Ward 1 and East Town of Dunkirk and Sheridan vote at School 7; Ward 2 and West Town of Dunkirk vote at the Administration Building; Ward 3 votes at School 4; and Ward 4 votes at the Murray Hose Company #4.
FORESTVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL
The overall proposed budget for the Forestville Central School 2009-10 school year is $11,073,122, an increase of $746,531 over the 2008-09 budget of $10,326,591. This represents a 7.23 percent increase when including a $1,319,22 debt service reduction payment that will be offset by $384,222 in building aid and $935,000 in unexpended fund balance. However, without the debt service reduction payment, the budget represents a 3.01 percent increase over the 2008-09 budget.
The proposed tax levy is $3,197,818, a decrease of $11,096 from the 2008-09 tax levy of $3,208,914. As a result, the projected tax rate based on true value for the 1009-10 budget was reduced by 6 cents - or 0.35 percent - from the current rate of $17.65 to $17.59 per $1,000 assessed value.
Estimated tax rates for the respective townships encompassed by the district are: $22.85 per $1,000 assessed valuation in Perrysburg; $26.86 per $1,000 assessed valuation in Arkwright; $17.59 per $1,000 assessed valuation in Hanover; $25.31 per $1,000 assessed valuation in Sheridan and $20.58 per $1,000 assessed valuation in Villenova.
There is one four-year term on the school board up for election, currently held by Patrick Valvo. Valvo is running unopposed.
Voting will be held inside the elementary school lobby from 1-8 p.m.
FREDONIA CENTRAL SCHOOL
Fredonia Central School has proposed a decrease in spending that may still lead to a tax levy increase.
Total expenditures for the 2009-10 budget are $27,410,564, a decrease of $44,434, or 0.16 percent, compared to the previous school year. The tax levy, however, is projected to increase 0.20 percent to $12,612,069, which would increase the tax rates (measured in amounts per $1,000 assessed property value) in Pomfret by 96 cents, Arkwright by 30 cents, Portland by 30 cents, Sheridan by 28 cents and Dunkirk by 23 cents.
Two five-year terms on the school board will be up for vote, with current board president Edith Byrne and newcomer Tom Hawk vying for the positions. Board member Kelly Crise has chosen not to run for re-election.
Voting will be held from 2-9 p.m. inside the high school cafeteria.
GOWANDA CENTRAL SCHOOL
The Gowanda Central School proposed budget for the 2009-10 school year remains at the exact same amount as that adopted for the previous year.
The proposed budget stays at a total of $25,695,150. A rollover of $1,498,165 from revenue from the current school year's budget plays a factor in reducing the expected property tax levy by 2 percent - or $93,165, to $4,565,081.
Two three-year terms on the school board are up for election. Incumbent board member Carol Paskuly and newcomer Susan J. Flaherty are running unopposed for the seats. Incumbent board member Linda Wilson has chosen not to run for re-election.
Additionally, the district will vote upon: whether to purchase student transportation vehicles, including two buses and several smaller passenger vehicles, at a cost not to exceed $325,000; whether to create a new "Vehicle Purchase Reserve Fund" to have an ultimate amount not exceeding $1.5 million and to expire on July 1, 2016; and whether to transfer an unused strip of property along Cattaraugus Creek to the village of Gowanda for incorporation into a village walking/biking trail.
Voting will be held from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Gowanda Middle School library.
PINE VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL
The proposed 2009-10 budget for Pine Valley Central School totals $14,768,974, an overall increase of $1,441,070 - or 10.8 percent - over the previous school year. However, 9 percent of this increase is composed entirely of building project debt service that is fully funded by state building and EXCEL aid revenues. Factoring out debt services, the proposed budget increase is $242,613, or 1.8 percent.
The tax levy is expected to remain at the 2008-09 level of $3,141,825.
Two three-year terms on the school board will be up for decision. Current board president Ronald Chase and incumbent member Michele Lindquist are both running for re-election unopposed.
The district will also decide upon two additional propositions: whether to expend $15,000 toward the school lunch program, authorize vehicle purchases not to exceed $244,069.
Voting will be held from noon to 9 p.m. inside the jr./sr. high school new gym entrance.
RIPLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL
The proposed 2009-10 budget for Ripley Central School totals $8,488,234, a 2.9 percent increase over the previous school year's budget. The tax levy is expected to increase 3.66 percent.
In addition to the budget, the district will also vote on proposals to move money to a reserve account for the purchase of a bus as well as whether to permit the tuitioning of high school students to nearby school districts.
One board member seat will also be up for election. Incumbent Melinda Gervasio and newcomer Michael Boll are running for the spot.
SILVER CREEK CENTRAL SCHOOL
The overall proposed budget for the Silver Creek Central School 2009-10 school year is $19,526,956, an increase of $1,149,019 - or 6.25 percent - over the 2008-09 budget of $18,377,937. The tax levy, representing approximately 27 percent of the total budget revenue, is $5,191,200, an increase of $81,610-or 1.6 percent - over the 2008-09 tax levy of $5,109,590.
As a result, the estimated tax rate based on true market value is 416.98 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 20 cents - or 1.18 percent - over the 2008-09 tax rate.
Estimated tax rates for the respective townships encompassed by the district are $16.98 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in Hanover; $24.97 per $1,000 assessed valuation in Sheridan and $16.98 per $1,000 assessed valuation in Brant.
There are two five-year terms on the school board up for election, currently held by Matt Bogosian and Amy Chavez. Both board members are running for re-election unopposed.
Voting will be held from 1-9 p.m. inside the high school lobby.
WESTFIELD ACADEMY AND CENTRAL SCHOOL
While the proposed 2009-10 budget for Westfield Academy and Central School features a spending increase, the tax levy is expected to be reduced.
The proposed budget totals $15,191,957, an increase of $546,312 - or 3.73 percent - over the previous school year. However, an appropriation of $250,000 of current fund balance into the proposed budget, plus the incorporation of EXCEL building aid, help to decrease the expected tax levy by 0.17 percent, or $8,796.
There is a deficit of official candidates running for three open positions on the school board. Only two people - incumbent board member Marie Edwards and newcomer Steven Reynolds - are running, meaning at least one of the three positions will need to be filled by write-in votes.
Voting will be held from 2-8 p.m. in the school lobby.
Compiled by Assistant News Editor Tim Latshaw. Contributing to this report were staff writers Joan Josephson, Michael Rukavina, Joel Cuthbert and S. Alexander Gerould.