A new school budget proposal revealed in Clarence Tuesday night shows millions more in cuts will need to be made even if voters approve the proposed budget in June. If it is rejected, more cuts will be made and more jobs could be lost.
Voters rejected a nearly ten-percent property tax increase in Clarence last week in an election which saw a record voter turnout.
Now, one of the most experienced educators in our region thinks the budget issues Clarence is facing right now are about to spread throughout Western New York.
"You're in a situation where you have no other place to go. I mean, no one on the Clarence Board of Education or the superintendent would be choosing to make these cuts," says Robert Christmann with the WNY Educational Service Council.
Christmann knows a thing or two about slashing school budgets. He is a former Grand Island superintendent who is now serving as the leader of the Western New York Educational Service Council. Simply put, he works with schools in our region to make them better. He warns that what is happening in Clarence is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Every district in New York State, at some point, will look like Clarence because you've run out of reserves. You have your costs that go beyond what the tax cap is, and you have no other choice but to make reductions," he says.
While in Clarence that means cutting staff, some sports programs and increasing class sizes to make up for a $2.4 million budget shortfall, Christmann says smaller districts may be pressured to consolidate.
"I don't think that any board or superintendent has any reason to be optimistic about where education is going," he adds.
Christmann thinks that is because retirement costs for districts are rising while federal funds are shrinking.
"We can't satisfy the taxpayer and we can't satisfy the parents," he says.
Without extracurricular activities, parents might start searching elsewhere for schools, but Christmann thinks soon they might not have very many places left to look.
"Where it's Clarence this year, it could be ten other districts in Erie County next year and more the year after that. There are no other choices," he says.
"So what can superintendents and school districts do to prevent that from happening? Because no one wants their taxes to go up, but no one wants the quality of their education to go down," asked Kelly Dudzik.
"There would be a great future for you if you could answer that question," said Christmann.
The school budget election in Clarence is June 18. Since the new proposal is under the tax levy limit set by the state, it only needs a simple majority of voters to approve it in order to pass.