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Cheektowaga School District budget woes traced to Albany

Cheektowaga Central School District officials are discovering that many of their budget woes lead straight to Albany.

During their meeting Tuesday night, Board of Education members received a draft of the 2015-16 spending plan, which outlines about $41.7 million in expenditures, up from this year’s $40.9 million budget.

With a $3 million budget gap, the district will have to hope for state aid to come to the rescue or realize savings through attrition or staff reductions, district Treasurer Kaitlyn M. Tokarczyk said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has outlined a $1.1 billion increase in state aid, but said he won’t outline how much each district would receive until the Legislature enacts his education reforms, which include changing teacher evaluations and tenure processes, enacting education and property tax credits and addressing special-education needs.

If the Legislature does not pass the reforms, districts will get no funding increases and no relief from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which was enacted in 2009-10 to close the state’s budget deficit. Tokarczyk told the board that the draft budget was prepared assuming the reforms do not pass.

State aid for 2015-16 is estimated to be $12.4 million, down from $12.9 million this year. Salaries are expected to rise by $941,000, health insurance by $299,000 and charter school tuition by $250,000. Several line items are expected to decrease, including Employee Retirement System contributions by $511,000 and debt service by $963,000. The charter school increase upset several trustees. By state law, when a student goes to a charter school, the district pays the charter school for that student.

Tokarczyk verified that about $1.2 million, or $11,000 per student, will go to charter schools.

Vice President Brian J. Gould said he would like to persuade families to keep their children at Cheektowaga Central. “I’d be willing to spend something to get them here,” Gould said.

Even without state funding numbers, the tax levy rise is projected to be 0.67 percent over this year’s spending plan, which is below the district’s allowable tax cap of 1.02 percent, Tokarczyk said.

The board will hold budget work sessions at 7 p.m. Tuesday and March 24 if needed at the high school. The annual budget hearing will be held there at 7 p.m. May 7.