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Bianco Says Schools Need Tax Hike to Avoid Cuts

By Cynthia Bianco

Cynthia Bianco

While classrooms have changed over the years, the desire of children to learn has not changed, at least not in spirit.

An old classroom (below), and a new classroom (above).

Next Tuesday, May 21, the School District will ask the community to vote on our proposed budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and for the first time in 20 years, we are asking the community to approve a three percent increase to the tax levy, about $31 a year for the average Niagara Falls home assessed at $55,000 before the STAR exemption.

The reasons we feel this is necessary have been well-publicized and are not unique to our district. In recent years, we have taken all imaginable steps to reduce costs and now we have to raise revenue. It’s that simple.

We have consolidated buildings, had significant reductions in force, moved to a less expensive health care provider, and implemented energy efficiency protocols that have realized significant savings.

As much as we resisted seeking an increase to the levy, compared to other districts we are fortunate indeed. Neighboring districts are considering larger--in some cases much larger-increases. I point this out not to make a statement about any other district, but to point out that in our district, our staff and the board have worked very hard for many years--20--to avoid a tax increase. I do not recommend one now lightly or without considerable thought. We have to accept that, without a small increase, we face programmatic cuts that would have a serious and negative impact on our students.

It is an unfortunate reality that school district votes traditionally have a very low voter turnout. I urge you to exercise your right to vote on this issue which has a direct, local impact on our youth.

This year our polling places have changed, in part to realize a cost savings but to a greater degree as a realization that when we are finally mandated to use electronic voting machines, the county cannot guarantee us enough to cover the large number of polling sites we enjoyed heretofore. Now we will utilize eight schools for all voting. Residents will receive a card in the mail telling them where to vote, but the information is also on our website, www.nfschools.net, as is information on our proposed budget.

With so much talk about Common Core, state assessments, and all the changes in education today, a lot of people have voiced concern about “teaching to the test;” some have questioned whether education is going to become too centered on ever higher learning standards in science and math to the detriment of the liberal arts study that has always been the basis of education.

Although I do believe we need to step up our science and math education nationally, I believe in the value of the arts, music, modified sports, and all the other areas of study and experience that make up a well-rounded education. Our children deserve a full, well-rounded education. We continue to give it to them, but we need you to vote on May 21, noon to 9 p.m.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

May 14, 2013