Chautauqua Lake School Superintendent Ben Spitzer, together with a number of district faculty and board members, will travel to Ellicottville on March 10 to join with other school officials to express their unhappiness with cuts in state aid revenues to school districts. State aid has been steadily decreasing since 2007 at a time when school districts are facing increasing costs for salaries, retirement and health insurance benefits, and utilities. While the state aid proposed for the Chautauqua Lake District in the state's preliminary budget represents an increase from that allocated for last year, it is still less than the amount allocated in 2008-2009.
The Ellicottville GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) Rally was organized by Rick Timbs, Executive Director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium. The purpose of the rally is to draw attention to the fact that most school districts are receiving far less aid than in the past, leaving nearly all school districts with a gap between expected revenues and expenditures. At a time when schools must implement the Common Core Curriculum and have greater requirements to help students with special education needs, and in a period of rising insurance and pension costs, most school districts must increase expenditures, while the tax cap leaves those districts with no way to bridge the budget gap without cutting essential programs.
Early in the budget process, the preliminary gap between revenues and expenditures at Chautauqua Lake stands at about $160,000. Many school districts face a much larger shortfall. Business manager Dave Thomas is confident that the administration can find ways to adjust planned expenditures to match expected revenues during the budget process over the next several months.
On a more positive note, Superintendent Spitzer read to the Board and the audience a letter he had received from a couple who had come to the school to watch their grandson play in an eighth grade basketball game. The couple was particularly impressed with a group of varsity basketball players sitting near them who had come to cheer on the younger students. They said of the group, "they are to be commended and applauded for their manners and were truly gentlemen."