Although the vote isn’t until May, the Cleveland Hill School District already has begun its budget planning public sessions with a presentation before a Board of Education meeting this week.
Administrative officials made a grim forecast as they struggle with decreased state revenue.
Last year, the district rallied against what they perceive to be an inequitable state funding formula that rewards schools with large tax bases, leaving small, lower income communities like Cleveland Hill in the wake. This year’s budget message is the same.
Superintendent Jon MacSwan explained that the state revenues that have helped Cleveland Hill in the past are no longer there.
If the district received just the average state aid percentage, it would help Cleveland Hill enormously, he said.
“We are still below our 2007-08 school year funding,” he said Wednesday night.
Officials are taking issue with a foundation aid formula that isn’t fully funded, a gap-elimination adjustment option that cuts district funding to balance the state’s budget, and unfunded mandates that tie up districts with administrative costs, including the recent teacher evaluation system required by the state.
“We continue to hemorrhage our financial reserves,” said Business Manager Dennis Corsaro. “This is not just Cleveland Hill. This is all over the state. It’s not an upstate-downstate issue; it’s a wealthy versus non-wealthy issue.”
Corsaro pointed to figures that cite Cleveland Hill as one of the poorest communities in Erie County, yet it also had one of the highest funding cuts per student, which averaged $1,303 last school year, compared to the $794 average statewide. Officials say many of the decisions regarding district funding are political.
“That’s the problem with the state aid formula,” Corsaro said.
Cleveland Hill administrators advocate a new funding system that would consider area poverty levels and demographics, how much the local district can contribute, property values and the income of the community, and measures for cost effectiveness.