"The board is really split right now, I think, about what if any tax increase they want to put to voters," North Tonawanda Superintendent of Schools Greg Woytila said.
With almost $4 million in cuts already suggested, Woytila
said a current tax increase of 3.79 percent (or about $70 for the average homeowner) is the sum of progress so far, as roughly $1 million still must be shaved to avoid tax increases.
To put things in perspective, Woytila
said increased costs tied to honoring step increases for teachers this year are worth $1 million in salary alone.
The district's contribution to the pension system has risen about 50 percent, while health care costs are similarly higher.
Still, a one-year step freeze would keep taxes in check for now.
"The kind of double edged sword is that yes it could (balance the budget) but there would still be cuts," Woytila
"There has been communication back and forth with all (unions).
No one's agreeing to a freeze at this point but we're continuing to look at things we can do."
The district's largest single union representing about 380 employees, North Tonawanda
United Teachers, issued a letter Tuesday on the matter, in which president Gary Lachut thanks Woytila for a willingness to negotiate but also says the district rejected an offer put forth March 19 "which demonstrated our willingness to help."
said negotiations for concessions have been somewhat clouded by the fact that teachers' contracts expire June 30, meaning a new four-year contract would normally be negotiated.
said given the budget picture including about a $2 million reduction in state aid, the district instead is seeking a temporary, one-year extension including a step freeze in teacher pay and changes to insurance co-pay amounts.