The tragedy of Cheektowaga-Sloan
A district with a budget that has seen its fair share of ups and downs in the past 12 years is now at the bottom of it all.
First it was the “no” vote back in May; then another “no” vote in June. Now, the district has been forced to adopt a contingency budget that, for the Cheektowaga-Sloan immediate community, is anything but pleasing.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Cheektowaga-Sloan, here’s what you should know:
The district’s original budget proposal was $33.26 million, up 0.75 percent, or $249,019 from last year, with a tax levy increase of 1.25 percent.
The first Cheektowaga-Sloan School District proposed budget was $33.26 million, up 0.75 percent from last year, and had a tax levy increase of 1.25 percent – the tax cap limit in New York State. Overall spending went up. People were not happy.
But what some people failed to realize – or maybe just didn’t want to take into consideration – was that the district received a $1.7 million reduction in state aid the prior year.
Raising the school tax was essentially inevitable.
And so came the first no vote in May, which was defeated 52 percent to 48 percent. New legislation requires a 60 percent “yes” vote in order to pass a budget.
Back to the drawing board.
The district then used $30,000 in fund balance to reduce the tax levy in an effort to compromise with voters – but to no avail. The second proposal had a 0.66 increase in spending from the current budget and a tax levy increase of 1.05 percent.
A second “no” vote prevailed in June, forcing to district to resort to a contingency budget.
Now Cheektowaga-Sloan must cut an additional $150,000 to keep the tax levy increase at zero because new legislation prohibits any tax levy increase on contingency budgets. All in all, that’s $180,000 cut from Cheektowaga-Sloan schools.
Despite the pay freeze teachers agreed on, despite the programs that have already been cut in recent years, the school district will have to make due with what it has – even if it isn’t much.
According to the State Education Department website:
“In the case of a contingency budget, districts are constrained in two ways – determination of ordinary contingency budget appropriations and the statutory caps. Ordinary contingency expenses are defined as the expenditures absolutely necessary to operate and maintain schools (except for those items over which the statutes themselves either provide mandates for or give discretion to the board of education).”
So Cheektowaga-Sloan schools will continue to operate; they will just have to cut more programs. A student body of 1,500 kids will have to ask their friends in other districts how their recreational activities and classes are going because they won’t get the opportunities to partake in them themselves.
Yes, you may not have kids in school anymore. Yes, you are fed up with high taxes. But actually engaging kids is what keeps promise for the future, and unfortunately Cheektowaga-Sloan kids will have less opportunity to enjoy what their schools have the abilities to offer.
But at least taxes didn’t go up. Never mind the future.