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Weak Canadian dollar, low gas prices cut into revenues for Cheektowaga-Sloan schools

A weakened Canadian dollar and low gasoline prices are cutting into revenues in the Cheektowaga-Sloan School District.

That is because the district depends on sales taxes, and these revenues are down by nearly 6 percent this year, district business administrator Wayne W. Drescher said.

“Sales tax has become a little more difficult; the Canadian shoppers are not as strong as they were,” Drescher told the Board of Education this week. “Gas prices are down substantially, and there were a lot of taxes related to gasoline.”

Despite the drop, Drescher said, the district budgeted conservatively so the financial crunch isn’t as severe as it could have been.

Typical of administrators who handle school budgets, Drescher hopes that Cheektowaga-Sloan will eventually receive more financial aid than currently planned.

“As you know, the state hasn’t adopted a budget, so they’ll probably be changing things from what the governor has proposed,” Drescher said.

According to Drescher’s figures, the district’s 2016-17 academic year budget currently stands at $34.2 million, with revenues projected at $16.4 million.

Looking at the tax levy, the amount of the budget to be funded by taxes, Drescher projected $15.4 million, which represents an increase of $225,000, or 1.49 percent. He noted that the state cap is 1.69 percent.

“We realize what the community can afford, and we’ve done everything to keep it as low as we could,” Drescher said. “We believe the community can support 1.49 percent.”

Drescher also hopes that property assessments will increase slightly, noting that the district took a hit in its West Seneca portion last year, when all properties were downgraded by 20 percent.

To balance the budget, the district could use $2.5 million from its fund balance – a $600,000 increase from the current fiscal year.

However, Drescher said, the increase is “almost directly” related to the district’s transportation contract; the current one expires at the end of the school year. “We’re expecting a substantial increase,” he said. “We haven’t had an increase in over 10 years, and all of our neighbors have seen about a 60 percent increase.”

Drescher said that although the district receives transportation aid, it won’t see relief until the second year of the contract; the district will have to pay the full bill in the first year.

Superintendent Andrea L. Galenski said she was encouraged that representatives from four bus companies picked up bid specifications from the district office. “We were shocked when we saw the interest,” Galenski said, “but it doesn’t mean that four will submit bids.”

Two companies apparently dropped out; only First Student and Student Transportation of America had submitted bids by Tuesday’s 2 p.m. deadline.