Voters approve Salamanca school budget, capital project
SALAMANCA — Residents of the Salamanca City Central School District passed a budget with no change in the tax levy for the next school year as well as another capital project.
Salamanca’s proposed $42.42 million budget for the 2019-20 school year passed Tuesday by a 546-72 tally.
Voters also approved a $34.78 million capital improvement project with no tax impact for renovations at the Iroquois Drive and Prospect Elementary campuses and Veterans Memorial Park with a 545-75 tally.
“Voter turnout was exceptionally high this year,” said District Superintendent Robert Breidenstein. “I think that the support that the school community had in coming out with an 87 percent vote passing for the Vets Park project and an almost 90 percent passing for the regular budget is a strong statement that the community will support good, fiscally sound plans.”
Also as expected, incumbent Theresa Ray (489 votes) was elected to one vacant seat on the Board of Education as the only name on the ballot. The other open seat will be filled by newcomer Bradley Earley, who received the most write-in votes at 233. Earley will replace board member Zachary Tucker, who did not run for reelection, beginning July 1.
The proposed budget includes $5.28 million more in spending compared to the current school year’s budget, a 14 percent increase. However, the tax levy will remain at $250,000. Since the 2013-14 fiscal year, the tax levy has been reduced by $3.18 million.
“The budget was set up to support all of the academic programs we have,” said Breidenstein, from small class sizes to advance college courses and from the arts to athletics and maintaining staff levels.
In addition to filling three retirement positions, the district will create several new positions, including an elementary reading teacher, a high school math teacher, a groundskeeper for Vets Park and additional bus drivers and monitors.
“This was a good, solid budget the board put together to meet the goals the district has established, and the community supported that plan,” he added.
The $34.79 million capital project would renovate Vets Park, some facilities at the Iroquois Drive campus, expansion of the bus garage and an addition to Prospect Elementary School at no additional tax impact to the community.
The community OK’d the city to sublet Vets Park to the school by 92 percent in a December vote after more than a year of discussion between the school district, city and Seneca Nation of Indians.
“You never know. You set a plan with the board, you communicate that with the community and then you take the show on the road,” Breidenstein said. The district held nearly 30 public meetings attended by over 400 Salamanca community members between last fall and the vote date informing the community of the project.
Breidenstein said re-establishing and strengthening relationships between the Seneca Nation, city of Salamanca and neighboring townships the district includes was key in the development of the project.
“That 87 percent passing rate is a really strong indication the community liked what we were sharing and the vision that we had for the community,” he added.
Of the $34,79 million cost, about $25.1 million would come from capital reserves the district has in the bank and about $3 million would come from state and federal aid related to the school’s location on Native American territory. The remaining $6.7 million cost would come from bonding through New York state with the bond payments covered by future aid payments to the district.
“We have had a few planning meetings for the capital project work for the vote that passed this evening and we’ll continue to have stakeholder meetings over the next few weeks and we will be getting information out to the community soon about timelines and estimated submissions to the state and when we anticipate construction beginning,” Breidenstein said.
If tentative scheduling doesn’t change, construction would begin in 2020 with the Vets Park portion completed by spring 2021 and the entire project completed by fall of 2022.
“I think this is something the entire Salamanca community can be very proud of,” he added. “Judging by the voter turnout, the community clearly has its eyes on the future.”