Clarence taxpayers refused to accept a 9 percent tax hike when they voted down the school budget in May.
But the parents whose children were hurt by the budget cuts are stepping up with their own money.
More than 100 donors pieced together nearly $40,000 to give to the School Board on Wednesday night – enough to restore modified and freshman sports for the fall season.
“It’s really some passionate people who all are parents of kids in school, and their kids have benefited from sports and programs,” said Drew Cerza, the Buffalo Wing Festival founder and a Clarence parent who helped organize the effort. “People are voting with their dollars right now. They do want these programs, they do want these sports.”
The parents have gone so far as to register their organization, called the Clarence School Enrichment Foundation, as a formal charity with a board of directors led by Buffalo lobbyist Victor Martucci.
The $39,000 raised thus far should be enough to restore the nine modified sports teams and four freshman teams, including soccer, volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and the standout wrestling program.
The district cut nearly 30 positions from its original budget, which was defeated this spring, but avoided a “disaster” situation with even more staff and teacher cuts.
More than 5,300 voters had cast their ballots, the second-highest vote total in the history of the district.
The school budget whipped up passions in normally placid Clarence, with people on both sides of the issue taking to the street before the budget votes with signs and slogans.
The parents anticipate the funds should also restore at least four of the many clubs that were eliminated when voters approved a second-chance budget in June.
But they caution that they won’t be around every year to close the gap between the programs that students want and funds the school is able to provide. “This is a one-year deal,” Cerza warned. “We’re going to have to find a way to get these things back into the budget.”
After this year, the organization will likely exist as a booster club to buy minor items like soccer balls and uniforms, but as for the teams themselves, “it’s going to be up to the school to reinstate them in the future,” he said.
Cerza said the parents were initially unsure whether the community would be willing to use their own funds to restore some of the popular sports programs.
“We were worried people would be resistant, but they weren’t,” he said. “They stepped up, and they were fantastic.”
While a $39,000 check was handed to members of the School Board on Wednesday, Cerza said the parents aren’t done with the fundraising effort just yet.
The funds will cover the modified and freshman sports programs for the fall season but not the winter or spring, and the group is hoping to raise a total of $200,000 toward that goal.
“There’s business out there, and people out there, that want to help,” he said.