As budgets increase and with state funding not rising at the same level, Cleveland Hill School Superintendent Jon MacSwan has suggested that school districts like his are coming to a breaking point.
“We, like other districts, are not sustainable,” he said during a budget forum session.
MacSwan referenced a recent article in The Buffalo News that reported on the insolvency of some schools.
“Somebody asked if we are one of those districts, and I would say yes,” he said.
Spending next year for Cleveland Hill is expected to increase about $1.4 million over current levels, while projected state funding is set to rise $182,275, or 1.5 percent.
Facing a budget shortfall of up to $1.33 million, Cleveland Hill Business Manager Dennis Corsaro estimated the tax levy could increase by 4.7 to 5.5 percent.
“We will be pecking away at that over the next few months,” Corsaro said. “We’re either going to cut expenditures, or we’re going to see increases to our revenues, but [the budget] has to be balanced.”
If Cleveland Hill pushes for a higher tax levy increase, district officials want to educate the community about the process, especially in light of the state-imposed 2 percent property tax cap. A complicated tax levy formula from the state means Cleveland Hill could propose a 5.16 percent increase and only need a simple majority vote for the budget to pass.
“That’s the toughest thing, trying to get people to understand [this],” MacSwan said.
It’s difficult to predict state funding, as a recent change to building aid formula leaves districts such as Cleveland Hill with more questions. Corsaro thinks the district could lose up to $338,000 with the new formula.
“From one month to the next, things are always changing,” he said.
In brighter news, Corsaro noted a five-year decrease to the district’s energy costs, dropping from $486,000 to $311,000 a year. He credited that to National Grid for dropping surcharges, a move that saved the district 44 percent this year, as well as to limited use of Cleveland Hill buildings during off hours.
Cleveland Hill will host a joint meeting between all of Cheektowaga’s four school districts at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in the high school auditorium.