Niki Klein
Niki Klein

By Jann Wiswall

Residents of the Ellicottville Central Schools District will vote Tuesday, May 20 on the proposed budget of $11,070,000 for the 2014-15 school year. A public hearing will be held the week before, on May 13, to allow voters to ask questions and learn more about how the budget was developed by the school’s board.

In addition to the basic budget, voters will be asked to approve the lease of one school bus at a cost of no more than $18,000 and to approve spending $28,916 to support the Ellicottville Memorial Library.

The basic budget funds “all of the educationally related services and the maintenance of our school building,” according to the resolution passed by the board at its meeting on Tuesday, April 1. The $11.07 million budget represents a 1.3 percent increase (approximately $128,000) over the current fiscal year’s budget.

The school’s board and staff cut more than $100,000 in expenses through a number of belt-tightening measures. At the same time, the board felt the school could not ignore the need to improve, expand and maintain technology in order to ensure that students are technologically prepared for college. The budget includes the purchase of 80–100 laptop/tablet computers, library software upgrades, online textbooks and the addition of a one-day-per-week technology support employee through BOCES.

The budget also reflects no increase in state revenues — an assumption the board made during the budget process. As a result of state-wide support and lobbying, the state legislature did approve a “reduction of the reduction” of funding to schools and it was learned ECS will be receiving about $45,000 more in state funding than budgeted. However, these funds will be used to replenish the school’s reserve fund.

If taxpayers approve the budget as proposed, they will see a 5.5-5.8 percent increase in their school taxes next year — 1.7–2 percent attributable to the basic budget and 3.8 percent to fund the capital project approved by voters last year (which does not count toward the state’s tax cap).

The final percentage increase will not be known until district property assessments are completed by the county in July.

Voters also have the opportunity to fill two school board seats vacated by long-time members Steve Crowley and James Riley. Only one individual in the district, Niki Klein, submitted a formal candidate application. Klein submitted the following candidate description:

“Niki Klein is a third generation graduate of Ellicottville Central School. She lives in Ellicottville with her husband Jason, who is also a graduate of ECS. She has three children: Harper (5), Tosh (4), and Joanna (10 months). Harper and Tosh both currently attend ECS.

Niki has a B.A. in Recreation Management and Program Administration from the University of New Hampshire. After she graduated, she moved to Colorado to pursue a career in her field. Initially, she worked in youth services for a nonprofit recreation district. She later obtained a position as product sales manager for Vail Mountain Resort. She was responsible for all ticket, pass and ski school sales. She oversaw a team of 30 people and her duties included developing and maintaining an operating budget and working with other departments to achieve team goals.

She also volunteered as a coach for a youth soccer league in Colorado, was active in the community and assisted in holiday food drives and annual town cleanup events.

The Kleins moved back home three years ago when Jason was hired by a company in Buffalo. They were both happy to move back to the close-knit community where they grew up and to raise their children around their extended family.

Niki is currently a stay-at-home mom and works part time as a customer service representative at Holiday Valley in the winter.

Niki is a strong supporter of the public school system and would bring the valuable perspective of a parent with young children entering elementary school.”

In order to fill the second open board seat, interested candidates may initiate write-in campaigns. Write- in candidates must meet eligibility rules as follows:

• Must be at least 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen.

• Must be a resident of the school district for at least one year.

• Must be the only member of the immediate family on the board.

• May not be a school district employee or appointee.

If no qualified write-in candidate is elected, the board may either leave the position vacant for a year or appoint a temporary board member who then may run for election next year to fill out the last four years of the five-year post.