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April 23, 2022 - 8:00am

Batavia City Schools Board leader explains budget process and increase

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2022 File photo of Batavia City Schools Board President Alice Benedict. Photo by Howard Owens

 

After Thursday’s Batavia City Schools board meeting and budget vote, The Batavian emailed each board member for comment about the budget itself and/or the process, plus any additional comments anyone wanted to make.

Most board members have been quiet during public budget talks, including regular meetings in March and April and a budget workshop in March. Due to the enormous depth of a $54.8 million budget, The Batavian attempted to obtain remarks about it and any particular aspects of interest that the financial plan entailed. 

Board President Alice Benedict — who has been a reliable source for comments throughout these last few months of budget talks — said the board “has had several open discussions about the BCSD budget, including our budget workshop that was streamed on YouTube.” The Batavian viewed the YouTube video of the budget workshop for a second time to make sure that some board discussion wasn’t missed the first time. Benedict was the only consistent speaker throughout the nearly two-hour session, and in subsequent board meeting talks about the budget. 

Benedict was the only board member to respond to The Batavian’s email.

Board members are elected by district residents. The trustees who didn't respond to The Batavian's request for comment are John Marucci, Jennifer Lendvay, Barbara Bowman, Michelle Hume and Chezeray Rolle.

The city schools board “is acutely aware of our responsibility to the community,” Benedict said, “and we know the economic times could not warrant a large increase in school taxes.” The group asked Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski to whittle the initial 2022-23 budget and 5.5 percent increase down to meet the tax cap of 1.62 percent. 

A unanimous vote Thursday adopted the proposed $54.8 million budget and 1 percent tax levy increase. Some posters on a social media site said the increase didn’t include recently raised assessments throughout the city, so “what’s the real increase?” they asked. 

The Batavian used a property assessed at $100,000 as an example, and that would mean a property tax increase of $19 from the prior year. However, if that home has just been assessed at $30,000 more than last year, that homeowner will see an increase of $601.60 in property taxes. ($100,000 at $19.23 per $1,000 compared to $130,000 at $19.42 per $1,000 assessed value.)

“We had previously had Budget Ambassadors, but the community, in the last few years, has not wanted to participate in the budget process. So we changed the process,” Benedict said. “It was successful this year, but the Board is more than willing to extend an invitation to the community to participate if that’s their interest.

“Five out of the last 10 years, the BCSD had no increase in the tax levy, but giving an exceptional and well-rounded education costs money, so we felt, at this time it was appropriate to ask for a slight increase,” she said.

A budget hearing has been set for 6 p.m. May 5 at Batavia High School, 260 State St., to be followed by a district vote on May 17. 

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