SALAMANCA - The Salamanca City School District will receive $1.6 million in federal Impact Aid funds to offer tax relief to district residents.
Flanked by Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning; state Assemblyman, Joseph M. Giglio, R-Gowanda; and Cattaraugus County Legislator Carl Edwards, R-Limestone, school Superintendent Robert Breidenstein said the 58 percent of district residents that shoulder the tax levy burden will be getting a break.
"This day was made possible when, about a year ago, a concerned group of people made it known that a recent reassessment had significantly raised their school taxes," he said. "We knew it was a local issue, but we needed help from other levels; local, state and federal help."
Pictured at the podium in the Salamanca school library is Robert Breidenstein, superintendent of the Salamanca City School District. Seated, from left, Congressman Tom Reed, state Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio and Cattaraugus County Legislator Carl Edwards.
Photo by Chris Chapman
The project, set forth by Edwards and that group of concerned residents, made its way to the door of Reed's office, Breidenstein said. There was a little-remembered program that seemed to fit just right in the situation, in an effort to help out the increase of taxes. In the 1950s, the Impact Aid program was created to help in making up lost revenues and additional costs for school districts that had a federal presence that made portions of the land nontaxable. That purpose was expanded to areas that have a Native American population living on their lands, in the latter half of that decade, Breidenstein said.
"That would most definitely be this area," he said.
In terms of budgetary alignment of the funds, Salamanca carries an annual budget of around $25 million. Of that amount, $3.5 million is raised through tax levy. The Salamanca school district has had a zero percent tax increase for the past two years, keeping the amount of money out of the residential pockets the same.
The Salamanca school district, although not completely on the Seneca Nation of Indians' Allegany Territory, is approximately 42 percent tax-exempt. When an enrolled member of a Native tribe purchases real estate in the city of Salamanca, the property is taken off the tax rolls. A portion of the casino revenue monies is, by agreement, also intended to help offset the nontaxable properties.
"This is what local, state and federal governments working together looks like," Reed said. "This is a situation where it really doesn't matter who gets the credit, so long as the problem is solved. This solution is going to put more money in the pockets of the taxpayers of Salamanca."
The $1.6 million does have a restriction that a small percentage, yet to be determined, has to be spent on helping children with disabilities. The remainder becomes part of the regular budget, with the purpose of lowering the burden on the residential taxpayers, Breidenstein said.
"While we will not be purchasing employees on this, it will, of course, help in lowering taxes," the superintendent added. "It will also help in lessening the impact of things and tax relief."
The receipt of the funds, according to Reed, also opens the door to making the grant an annual thing. Now that the district has been awarded for the first time, the likelihood of subsequent years is likely. The amount of funding from year to year does tend to fluctuate, he said.