Cheektowaga-Sloan officials seek help for special ed, other costs for 2017-18
Still facing a $443,000 gap in the district’s budget after receiving a $200,000 bump in foundation aid from the state, Cheektowaga-Sloan officials said they are depending on local legislators to advocate for them on the state level.
At a meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Andrea Galenski said that since the Board of Education’s last meeting, she and District Business Manager Wayne Drescher have been meeting daily to discuss the budget and in the past week have been advocating for the district’s interests with Assemblywoman Monica Wallace and state Sen. Timothy Kennedy.
She added that she and other superintendents in the region have finalized and signed their joint letter on their financial concerns and have shown it to both representatives.
“We don’t even have enough staffing at this point to even provide the services that we need to; we’re drowning,” she said, expecting that a spending increase of almost $650,000 for 2017-18 will include hiring a teacher to deal with a spike in English as a Second Language students in the district. “The costs are extraordinary.”
Galenski said Wallace and Kennedy were receptive to advocating for more funding in the face of increases in the cost of providing ESL, special education and other necessary services, and termed as insufficient the $1 billion increase for public education proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“It’s not enough for districts to sustain,” she said. “It was less than half the $2.1 billion that Educational Conference Board had proposed for 2017-18.”
Galenski’s comments followed a detailed report on the district’s special education costs given by Jacquelyn Fowler, the district’s director of special education.
In her presentation, Fowler reported that Cheektowaga-Sloan spends between $35,000 and $50,000 per student on BOCES programs for special education students, which does not include additional costs incurred when students in the district are sent to outside agencies such as St. Mary's School for the Deaf.
Those tuition expenses can range from $30,000 to almost $102,000 per student, she said.
Transportation costs for those students are also additional and are estimated to be $278,000 in total, according to Drescher.
Drescher said to get state help with these costs, the district must first reach a threshold of $36,000, after which the state will pay only 72 percent of expenses.
He said the threshold is lower ($12,000), and reimbursement higher (90 percent), if students attend private agencies.
Also during the meeting, Drescher told the board that the district’s state tax cap increase will be below 1.26 percent this year, because “our community, we believe, will not support anything above that 1.26.”
He said he will present further details on the district’s 2017-18 budget at the board’s next two meetings, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 6, and Tuesday, March 21, in the boardroom at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, 166 Halstead Ave., Sloan.