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Comparing school taxes and spending increases

The joke is that Buffalo has a bar on every corner. To that I would add, Erie County has a school district at every intersection.

There are 30 school districts in the county. One as small as 710 students. Many in the 1,400 to 2,500 range. Or about the size of my high school when I graduated all those many years ago from Kenmore East.

My colleague Tom Precious, in an April 20 story on the recommendations of the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, wrote:

"Consolidation is recommended not just for cities, towns and villages but also for the state's 698 school districts, which levy the biggest local property tax hit. Consolidating two, 900-pupil districts can save 9 percent, and merging smaller districts can save taxpayers as much as 20 percent, the commission noted."

Meanwhile, back in Albany, the governor and State Legislature this session increased education aid to districts by a record 8.9 percent - in the face of a huge state budget deficit. That aid has enabled local school districts to increase spending in proposed budgets for the coming year well beyond the 2.6% inflation rate the state used in calculating its budget. Only Lakeshore increased spending below the inflation rate.

An informative two-page spread in Monday's edition of The News provided budget details for voters, who go to the polls May 20 to say "yea" or "nea" on the spending plans. I took a look at two categoties of information -- how much proposed spending is up in the budgets, and the property tax bill for the owner of a house assessed at $100,000.

My analysis looked at 27 districts -- no data was available for Akron and Lackawanna, and Buffalo doesn't levy property taxes for schools.

First let's look at property taxes on a $100,000 house:

District Taxes
Cheektowaga-Sloan $     2,770
Cleveland Hill $     2,498
Depew $     2,005
North Collins $     1,959
Grand Island $     1,954
Kenmore-Tonawanda $     1,905
Amherst $     1,890
Williamsville $     1,823
Springville $     1,785
Lakeshore $     1,778
Tonawanda (city) $     1,771
Eden $     1,770
Hamburg $     1,762
West Seneca $     1,732
Alden $     1,710
Cheektowaga $     1,694
Gowanda $     1,670
Maryvale $     1,646
Holland $     1,638
Clarence $     1,587
Iroquois * $     1,538
Lancaster $     1,532
Orchard Park $     1,512
Frontier $     1,485
Pioneer $     1,421
Sweet Home $     1,287
East Aurora $     1,037
* average of six different tax rates within district

Next up: How much proposed budgets grew:

District Increase
Maryvale 7.7%
Gowanda 7.6%
Lancaster 6.8%
Grand Island 6.5%
Springville 6.1%
Frontier 6%
Hamburg 5.8%
Eden 5.2%
Amherst 5.1%
Kenmore-Tonawanda 5%
North Collins 4.8%
Pioneer 4.7%
Cheektowaga-Sloan 4.6%
Cleveland Hill 4.5%
Clarence 4.4%
Orchard Park 4.3%
Williamsville 4.1%
Cheektowaga 4%
Iroquois 4%
West Seneca 3.9%
Alden 3.9%
Sweet Home 3.8%
Depew 3.4%
East Aurora 3.3%
Tonawanda (city) 3.1%
Holland 3%
Lakeshore 1.2%

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