Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz presents his school consolidation proposal.mp3

WBEN Extras
Monday, April 16th
00:54:17

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for joining me here today. As I released my offices comprehensive report. Examining school district's expenses and potentials for consolidation in the Erie county. I'm pleased to be joined here by quite a few members of my staff. Including those who played a key role and in doing the work associated with this report. We are joined by mark Cornell from our office of budget who is in some ways the shared services grew. Having gone through two major shared services panels. Associated with Erie county has mandated by New Year's Day one and 20152. 2017. I think workers who work on this report. Or driver policy breakfast on campus. Would entrants might work on this thing and for his work we're also joined by Patrick him way too. It's very good research issue with the support it thank Patrick for. We are not joined by Kelly all of and also from my office she did a tremendous network anchor as well it's one thing there. Division of real property tax services which do a lot of work examining the tax rates. And how much is actually generated in taxes and Erie county where it goes to. I thank them for their tremendous work associated with this report. The report issued today is that says it's a comprehensive report. Which examine school district's finances and other aspects of school district which will be talking about very soon. It's as one of probably the most thorough report that you we've ever seen because there really hasn't been anything like this. In Erie county that looks at a comprehensive review by review of the budgets associated with school districts. I'll how much they're actually spending on an annual basis. How much are spending per student. And how much are spending an administrative cost per student as well as how much they received sales tax how much they generate property tax. I think it was a very important analysis to do because I'm a local level. We do. As we had a biannual basis have been performing analysis. On shared services for the company. Three cities when he five villages friction point account sixteen villages but the school districts are not required to participate in church services. And so we think it's a very important identify these numbers and what the public know I'll. Why we're doing this and background why are we doing this one New York State has seventh highest property tax burden unites states. We site and mr. or. Are there are multiple programs that exist to address the issue. Such as basic and enhanced our property tax cap in the local church services efficiency plans. Bought this does not really eliminate that they the issue that we have with having higher property expert. The basic and enhance stars a great program unless you're a business. Rory younger homeowner which you don't receive first as a business any incentive you don't get anything back. If you are rental property don't get anything back on the rental property here in new owner new younger you hardly get anything back. If your senior U it is significant amount back and star but that property taxes are still being charge. In Seoul we've heard a lot from some of the school districts as we've gone through this. Analysis is that well people get their money back from our program but as we'll show all it really doesn't make a big difference in the long run on the property taxes are collected in the community. And that paid for out of the pocket of folks so Starr is important for seniors but it doesn't have much a tremendous impact for others. Also we in 2015 and 2017. We worked on two very large shared services plans with towns villages and cities to implement savings that are could be directly related to cost savings. On the property tax. Let me for the entire county. In 2015 we issued a two Erie county wide efficiency plan. With fourteen to sixteen million dollars in annual savings. In 2017. Re issued a good robust plan which identified four point five million dollars in savings. But there's really not a whole lot for the cities the towns and villages in the counties of we can share dog catchers we can do additional things like that. But there's not a whole lot of savings that are gonna materialize in the future and you may have heard New York State is saying in the future you need to meet you have to meet. We will meet there's no doubt about it but we do know that the biggest driver property taxes in our region is not cities towns and villages in the count me. It's actually school districts and special districts they drive the vast majority of taxes are we know that. In this report here we went through every. We have a list of every tax that's chart Mary count in the filing that it and their document itself. It is more than fifty pages. In identifies every tax. No matter what it is county they'll see how special district fired districts lighting district you name it. A quiet controlled districts did you know that acquire control districts exist in Erie county and they charge property taxes they do. But we also look at it in what we identified very quickly early on is that of the one point eight. Billion dollars in taxes that are charged annually in Erie county. 16% comes from Erie county. 289 million ounces as of 2017. Numbers. 346. Million or 20% comes from the cities towns and villages combined. Tony percent. And special districts make up 12% to 212. Million dollars in taxes. And school districts. Make up the majority 52%. Or 905676338. Dollars and 27 cents. And taxes charged in 2017. Was directly attributable to school districts. When you look at it in another way the pie chart. It does it's pretty pretty strong. Example of why we need to look at these costs as we go forward to ensure that where art and not pricing ourselves out of competition. As I said individuals may get star exemption but where business to business is thinking about coming here they don't get a star exemption. So we have to attract them through other ways it went other communities may have wondered to a school districts in an entire colony and they have a lower tax rate it's tough. When they see why don't I got to look at thirty different potential towns. Are thirty different school districts that are fully area. In Erie county 32 total have to worry about where I put my business because. If I just move it across the street the tax rate for that school district may be much higher than the one right across the street from. So 52% of the tax Levy goes to schools 12% special districts 40% cities towns villages and 16% accurate count. Now we've heard well if you take into account star then the school district number will drop dramatically. That's what we were told by a few people as we are preparing its report. So we actually took a look at that we look at how much money was actually. Given back to local taxpayers through our program and see what impact and actually add a property taxes and what makes the biggest portion of it. Not a big difference. And 48%. Still the largest portion. Of property taxes charged in Erie county. Ghost schools special districts rises at 13% town and village rises when he won the county rises to eighteen so either when you take into account star. Property taxes associated with school districts make up 48%. Of the total text. Now we have a very low tax rate in Erie county and I know a lot of people don't believe that. They think Erie county tax rate is exceptionally high but when you compared to other counties in New York State. Erie county is actually one of the lowest property tax rates especially of an urban area. At four dollars and 94 cents per thousand is the sixteenth lowest in New York State is the lowest in Western New York. People like to talk about how their taxes are cheaper in other places and in in Western New York the wrong they may believe it. It's not true. I had Gershon talk locator August Allegheny Wyoming Genesee I'll have a higher tax rate in most situations it's actually much higher than the county texture. So we've done our business we've done what we need to do try to reduce cost near county govern. But we have services we need to provide so it's not like we can just automatically cutter tax rate in county government by tremendous amount. If we did at this point considering wrongly charging four dollars and 94 cents per thousand. We would truthfully have to decimate services to do it and I know we also don't wanna raise taxes I hear a thing about why can't we provide more services. We can't provide that much more services unless we have more revenues to pay for. So in Erie county we've done our share we've taken the initiative to reduce costs is shared services panel. As you can see our tax rate in Erie county is actually one of the lowest in New York State. It is the lowest in western new York and for almost all the urban areas especially of upstate New York. It is it is one of the lowest it's lower Monroe it's lower than on and a it's lower than room where being of it is the only one that's lower our truth is Albany and as we know. Albany has every one of the state offices there and get a lot of funds from. As a result of so sixty close and near and state near statins and lowest in Western New York has sent. So what's Erie county's rural people say why do you have a roll your account executive. What is your account I care about school districts well we do a lot first author county taxpayers support schools are stating come county property and sales taxes. So if you're coming in or move Erie county of course you've got to worry about property taxes and as we show the largest proponent proportion of your. Texas is as school taxes. Now here's something that most people don't know. If the individual or business does not pay their school taxes on time guests who makes the school district hole. You recount. So it doesn't matter what school district. But we'd make school districts hole for unpaid property taxes so the school district always gets 100% of the tax Levy that's issued to it. Even if only 90% of the taxes are paid on time. That is something that most people don't realize so I talked to school district superintendents are. Or school board members they're like what we get property taxes in full why are you worried about that because Erie county. Makes the school districts hole. If by chance. The population decided that half of us are no longer gonna pay our taxes. Under the law that exists today. He recounting estimate. The towns villages and school districts hole for their taxes. Think about that so of 50% of the population that we're talking a pair taxes this year under the law that exist today. Probably a hypothetical but a lot of exist today we would have to make school is for Paul. We do make the school mr. Paul many situations going on average we talked about 90% of the taxes when their first do. The 10% additional collected in the long term portion of what we foreclosed which sometimes may take years to do. So leery company makes the school districts all here's another briefing that most people don't realize. I hear all the time wires are sales tax all. Can't you lower sales tax while we could blow ourselves that. But did you know. That it Erie county in 2017. Of the sales tax that was collected 136. Million dollars of it we shared. Which school districts. Something school districts don't like tell the public but they receive a substantial amount. And the list per school district is included in the exhibits in the back. It's exhibit. Two. Which makes certain. Yes means they exhibit two which shows the district. The amount. District budget plus also sales taxes distributed over an annual basis. But in 2017. We've provided school districts 1360007191349. Dollars. In sales tax proceeds. So Erie county theoretically could reduce its sales tax by a substantial amount. If we stopped sharing with school districts now we're not stopping teacher and school districts but I think people need to understand. That the eight point 75%. Does not go all the recount in the first 4% goes to New York State. Remainder of the four point 75%. Erie county gets roughly half of it. And the rest shared with the cities villages. Towns and school districts and agencies school districts get a lot of money. So on transparency and I think this is a very important point we started this report. We. Wanted to just we thought it would be very easy to gather the data associated with school district budgets. We just be able to go online NC school district. What they post what their budgets are for the prior budget here in the current budget year. But. We originally didn't plan on this being a portion of them all the report. What we had to make it a portion of the report because. School districts some of them not all but some of them. Do not put accurate in new information that we think is necessary for the public. And as truthfully required by New York State law based on legislation that was signed into law recently by governor Andrew Cuomo. Which requires them to put information about their budgets. Our lines of the public can see it. Well what we found out very quickly and as you see you're receivers soon and it's included. As exhibit three in the report. Not all the district put their information on line so it put almost nothing on line. Some of it make it impossible to get information. We actually had have a staff member mr. Shanley go out. To various school districts talk to the budget office is try to get a copy of the budget some on they were able to do others were very very. Almost like a fortress you can't take pictures of this you can't see our budget. These are governments. School districts are governments. These are put together by the people for the people to educators students. And the public deserves a right and all. How much money is being spent and where are being spent so not all the budget put all the information on line. Here's what you exhibit three in the in the report on the screen right now. Some do some do a very good job of it some follow laws are supposed to. But others don't. And we also found that some putter for the current budget year but don't putter for the prior budget here so unless you actually happening a copy of the budget book. From the year before you might not even be able to match up and figure out how much it was increases in particular there is how much the carts. Bought it it's disappointing. Because in Erie county. When we do a budget we list of the prior budget year as inactive. The proposed budget. And then under the law we're required to provide that three years following fiscal plan. So we will also come up with a fiscal plan for the following three years so you actually we'll get five budget years worth of information and our report. And unfortunately in most of these sometimes you don't even get the current budget year nevertheless. Prior budget years. So we identified that you can write that you can look at the report you were the strong ones and we're not. There are great documents and great and we we wanna highlight the Canton school district as a tremendous budget document. And we would recommend every school district follow the Canton method it is a great budget document that makes it very easy to identify. Our costs. The revenues that are coming in where there actually being spent and ten times actually is available online to review. So we think it's very important that we highlight very good budget documents. Here he'll fight an average budget document which. Unless you're like me to former controller or like our budget analysts and news policy experts. The average citizens gonna read this and wonder what the heck is that. A budget as I've noted before is more then. The dollars and cents on a spreadsheet. A budget should be the common sense solutions to address the needs is required by that municipality. So when our budget we have very detailed budget that addresses the needs with their county residents. We haven't broken down by departments of broken down further by divisions expenses and revenues. So people can actually analyze and determine where the cost where the money's going. Many of these you can't and the average citizen if they read the budget document if it's available to review is minorities on district wasn't. They're not going to be able to make heads or tails. So on transparency we were very worried about that. Now let's get to some of the music we actually look at school district spending we look at the total budgets we compare to the district's size we do expenditures for district. So we've seen wide variations. And in budgets for similar size district so what you're seeing on the screen here today. Are our five districts. Between 1607. Students in 1780. Once it's very similar school populations. And visual C. In one of an Easter are. The which also happens view of the highest rated schools pursuant to the business first annual review. East Aurora spent 171824. Dollars and 59 cents per student. In their budget. Did you spend 43855. Dollars per student in the budget and they actually have as you see. Or more students vanished or are. So it's really the same site district now there are many reasons why this could be the case. There are districts between pour it in in more poverty stricken areas that generally spend more per student. And those that are in higher. Well well there is we know that it. One or two special needs students can drive up the costs associated. With the district. Here we have on the screen here the five lowest districts that spend per student. In the five heights. So it's not totally surprising to see buffalo is one eyes now only because it's a large. District of because it has a lot of special needs it has a lot of educational issues and a lot of the other school districts app. Such as there's more than 200 languages spoken in the awful school district. I guarantee you if some of the ones that are up top frontier and Clarence in west Seneca. They're lucky if they have three languages and most spoken million dollars. So what what you we did is we wanted to take a look at it and they'll overture district spending per student. It varies and there's a lot of variables associated with that we don't want people think just because it's a Heisman per student that that means literally spending more than it should. Per student is a lot of variables associated with. But that we also took a look at some of the other areas so in in and there's no clear link between expenditures and student performance. There are some very nice and districts in high student performance are some very nice and districts and it will student performance and vice Versa. Says many factors that going to the overall cost. Per student in his district. And generally smaller port district relied more on stated a Sunni they're they're numbers may be off while three districts rely more property taxes. So there's not one factor that we can take into account with regards to that. So. Just right off the bat higher performing districts districts tend to be larger. Actually spent last for for district. The top ten school districts in Erie county according to the buffalo business first rankings at an average of 17148. More students. And spent an average of 3307. Less per student than the bottom ten school districts. These are the numbers that we. Not necessarily critique of anyone district percent. But he showing that there are difficulties in trying to and it analyzes. Comparison because they're not all the name they don't have missing student base they mean different issues. But it's a good analysis to perform the seated districts of similar size could vary so much their budgets and what he's been produced. So that we looked at administrative cost. Because we think these are much more fair analysis that goes across the line. Because even if you are a smaller districts it's been workers there students your administrative costs should be comparable. You know honestly it did he do we know what we need they need him as superintendent that you give chief financial law officer in the media assistant superintendent for programs assistant superintendent for other purposes. So this is not going to be that different. And what we found there is a wide variation in spending between industry. Generally smaller districts and Marty administration per student than larger districts. Always the case but generally that is the case so what are the lower spend per student and administrative costs. The lowest is actually the buffalo city schools mr. Lotta people would think although buffalo city school district would be one of the highest administrative cost. It spends the most of course as the most of them highest per student in overall cost when it comes to the actual amounts that administrators. It is the lowest. And about 253 dollars and 65 cents per student. Clarence Lancaster Willie is Lambert suburban districts. There are also in the low category. But they'll look at the higher ones. Silver creek central school district actually is in your account most people don't know that happens over creek. It's also much talk county school district who go cross county lines so over Africa's highest per student 795. Dollars and 59 cents. In administrative costs for students. North Collins and other rural district in the southern part of Erie county. 784. Dollars and 61 cents per student. Go Wanda. Silver creek north Collins and Wanda are three districts that are right next week. That's been seven or four dollars and 98 cents per student. Holland small small these smaller districts primarily in poor areas we spent more. Per student on administrative costs that some of the wealthier districts or for that matters to you buffalo which is lost. So we look at it in in in this report examines everything per school district art exhibit note. Why line. By school district how much is their budgets what they spent per student fees and an administration which do what we believed to be there administration costs. We've been very conservative about. We've not just thrown everything in the kitchen sink if we could not determine that it was administrative costs actually took out. There is a standard that used to New York State and we use that standard but as I noted the budget in some of these districts are very hard to try to determine. We basically had to pick it apart. That our budget experts can do with the average citizen would not be able to do. So we did this type of analysis. We've looked at reviewing savings we have a whole section here about academic analysis that are available including a very important. Study that was done three times by the same individuals don't communion here. From Syracuse university's Maxwell school they used examples of how much savings could be made. Our per merger of school districts and consolidations cooler for depending on the size. And we looked at that. In me some comparisons. The academic findings are bearing interest. Generally the consolidation of smaller districts lead to great the greatest savings. So we are not advocating that the city of buffalo should be merging with Amber's now on we don't we're not thinking about that because we don't believe there would be really substantial savings there. But we do believe. That in the smaller district can coloring in some of the rural areas there is substantial savings could materialize. As a result of consolidation. Especially in the administrative area in order to talk a little bit later about that additional financially this huge. Up to 40% of additional aid it's available from New York State. We're districts Gonzales. Also short term costs of merger can be outweighed by a long term savings and certainly can be covered by the additional scrutiny which talk about later. So here's a hypothetical rumors everyone's heard about the hypothetical cheat on rumors that we talked about it stated count. And what we determined looking at the Cheektowaga if you do history verses Williams will central school district. Which actually has 1000 more students. Is that there is over there's about one point three million dollars in the least amount of savings that would materialized. Actually believe would be more. We basically said in the most conservative estimate possible. And administrative savings in the town of Cheektowaga. We believe that you would come up with at least one point three million dollars in administrative savings in the first real. If all the districts and she dog emerge. It only a couple districts merger deal would come up with eight things we know. It's not it there's there's no there's no doubt about it. We looked at Cheektowaga because. Unlike many other communities west Seneca has one school district primarily in the community. I don't want as you can and sweep all but the vast majority of us and Amherst has whims of central Amherst. But Cheektowaga has. Five full school districts. That are within the boundaries Cheektowaga. 2:2 on central Maryville Sloan. Cleveland hill and to view and then there's three other districts that encroach into Cheektowaga. Lancaster. What usual central and west Seneca. So if you think about it for every tax dollar and collecting here in Cheektowaga there's actually be different districts and it might be went out to. She can log is a case study of probably. They should of addressed in the past but they didn't. There's been discussions recently about him I'd like to say that we've had some discussions as well with members and you can log and I think that they are open to this continued discussion. Because one of the things that we realize and something that is very disturbing when you look at. Population trends especially Cheektowaga. Is that between 20067. Enrollment in 201617. Enrollment. She can log central lost 15% of its students. June July August loan it lost 41% of its students in Cleveland hill at las 24% of its students to pew lost. 25%. Of the students. Mary Bell lost eleven for suits. This trend is continuing. These districts are gonna continue to lose population. We are growing in Erie county which you can log is not a community that's growing and we know that there's not as many children going to schools as a was ten years ago nevertheless there was twenty years ago. So they're gonna have to consider this whether it. I don't have the power of forces. But these districts need to consider it. Because they're losing population when you lose population there's less people to pay for the cost associated with the district. That means more people less people accuse me have to pay more. So we looked at Cheektowaga we know there's potential savings there but we also identified two other potential savings. That could materialize and consolidations. Eden north Collins have previously been identified as a potential savings. As we noted north Collins also pretty already has one of the highest administrative cost per student in Erie county eons as is or is better what not that much better. But we made a comparison in a report a combined the north Collins district. We have approximately 2029. Students based on the 2017. Numbers. But you're quite. Which has 2264. Students and is also a more rural district because it's in the real law in Wales. And alma. It actually spends on average. With more than a 150 more students if you combine and actually spends a 178000. Dollars less in administrative costs. Now we also that's in the central part of your economy we also that took a look at one in the north Akron and all the Akron involved in both rural districts. They don't have a tremendous amount students for district. Little less than 15100 in all and 17100 and Akron. If you combine the all the Akron school district into one and sort of you can still have all your schools or it. Reaffirms you keep all your school you keep all your teachers keep following your energy keep all your bus drivers. You'll save just in that district along we believe there's potential 436000. 969. Dollars and administrative savings in the first year alone because we compared it to sweet home. Which is a similar size district is the combined Albany Akron would be. And we think it's more because sweet home is not wanna lower district to average. So if you actually. Consolidated all of Akron is call the Alton Akron at all. And you kept the schools. We kept Akron high school he kept all the nice we kept the middle schools kept the the oh primary schools which had centralized administration. We believe you've come up with a at least 436000. Dollars in savings in the first year now there's different ways that savings could go. The savings could be returned to the taxpayers or is often is the case in what we think is sometimes appropriate. The savings could be just put back into the school district to be spent on student needs. Lot of the districts especially the rural lawyers have a difficult time of the special needs students. They're talking about cutting sports programs are talking about cutting are things like that. Think about it those two districts have an additional 437000. Dollars to be split between the two of them. Rule over 200000 dollars apiece they go directly back into provision of services to the students. These are hypothetical mergers are other options that are out there. The consolidation process is a difficult process in New York we're not gonna denied that. One of the reasons why we haven't seen consolidations in recent years because the process is so difficult. Laid out New York's education law must be initiated by the school wars so once school or want to do the other one doesn't it goes nowhere. Both school boards want that wanna do it then you can actually start moving forward with a process it in the end you have to have a vote of the citizens that live in the districts. And let's say you've combined all the votes it past 75 to 25. But it just failed by one vote in one district. Because it has to be separate vote for district. The consolidation sales. We believe that the process is difficult cumbersome and one of the reasons why these things haven't happened. Our discussions with a school administrators and school leaders indicate to us there is the belief that this needs to be done. There are thirty full school districts in Erie town Erie county 32 when you include the two that encroach into Erie county for other counties such over creek. In pioneer. Thirst three cities in America. This 125 council combined to cities and towns more full school districts in Erie county than combined cities and towns. We need to look at this folks this is legitimate issue. These are legitimate. Needs of the community. We can do better as a community and providing. And education to our students but the problem is a consolidation process is really difficult and deny that people. I was criticized I talked about this in the state the counties that I didn't know a difficult process is we know it's a difficult process. We think they're changes need to be made with those changes we've made it state law but that doesn't mean that we should ignore the situation. Just because something is difficult doesn't mean we shouldn't take it out. The task may be difficult but if it's something that needs to be done we need to do what we do that every game in the county government. I think it's incumbent upon us as a community and as a region to think about this as well. Now we know there would be benefits to the students. If you merge some of these districts and still kept every school open just from additional savings that can be put back in toward student services. Gifted and talented programs we have an analysis and here. That shows. In Williams bill compared to the combined Cheektowaga districts there are only anymore AP classes that are offered to the Williams and students and those are offered. India at districts in Cheektowaga combined with sex accounts that I know from going to elect a lot out. We back in the eighties we shouldn't have a whole lot of EP classes. But just look at. Immune system to noted. We and middle schools currently offers sixty total AP classes they're students. While the five previously come discussed Cheektowaga students. Are district's. Central Maryville Sloan criminal to puke opera combined. When he won AP classes. There's more than doubled almost triple EP classes in Williams bill than there is in the Cheektowaga districts. You can take the evenings and put it backwards teachers for EP classes. Career pathways and internship we know that wealthier districts. Districts that generally have not not some of the issues or district they put money towards career pathways and internship programs. Some of the district know. Improve special it's special education services is a big one. You can merge districts on the administrative and what you're doing your also merging the administrator for special needs students which is very expensive. And it's something that could be dressed expanded AP courses and we support senators. I think it's very important that we look at this. We know that there are. Already consolidation. Examples in place in our region. That work to save money in the long run and provide services to those students across district lines as anybody have a guess what it is. Call bossi. Post he's one boasts he's too policies is basically the two districts are basically independent school district that provide students. From various school districts across the region boast he's 1 northern and central are counting votes he's too. Southern Erie county is well toppled Enron is counting I was just at the wonderful new boats used to doing doctor. They provide a great education OK maybe they graduate from their school district that they live and but they primarily get the clashes in oppose school. Most he's provides welding programs policies provide care program proceeds provide entry of that programs policies provide all kinds of programs. They're not provided in normal school districts. This is an example of consolidation. And system that kind of works and everyone agrees it works so if it can work in that situation we can talk about emerging services emerging. Administrative costs still provide the additional services to students. Here's one of the big reasons why we really should consider consolidation of school districts and it almost never gets discussed. New York State offers. To the district the new districts and created. An entitlement a 40%. Increase in operating data eight for five years. That is millions and millions of additional dollars. That can be provided to local school districts. To help defray any costs that may exist as a result of the consolidation. But to provide it to provide additional aid and assistance directly to student there. So the first five years in an additional 40%. That's a lot of money the money that's Ericsson the new York state budget it never gets touched. They keep on rolling over 225 million dollars they put the budget because it's required by law it's there. But nobody touches it because we don't have any consolidations anymore. Think about the additional money that could be put in. To hire more teachers for special needs more teachers for different programs to provide additional funding and services for EP and other programs for these merge districts. These districts that are relying on property taxes at a higher rate per student. Could actually receive additional substantial amounts of data aid. For the first five years 40% and then it you get additional ten years of it of enhanced which drops by a certain percentage annual. Fifteen years of additional stated what your receiving right now a lot of money. And to date has been putting in on the table to try to help these murders along with none have been taking it because no one talks about that. We talked to superintendents we talked to leaders in the teachers association and almost none of them know it. It's very obscure but it exists we confirmed it with the state education laws that yeah it's passed and approved and every budget. And no one really takes off guard has been taken out and other districts across your statement taken advantage of it but Nolan and Erie county. There also entitled when you are merged receive an additional 30% an extra capital. If you're thinking about changing an old building investing in journal building an additional 30% capital late that's a lot of money. It's increased to match the district so a lot of good things and then there's other possible matching aids that are coming out the 201819. State budget shared services initiatives. This in itself should they should get people think that. We can still keep our school we can still have our mascot on our football team. But maybe we merge with a similar district right next to us and we'll have additional aid flow in from New York State. For student service. In isn't that what it's about providing students the best education they possibly can get. That's what we're talking about. So recommendations. My office or some recommendations. We do not particularly we're not recommending. Any particular merger we have hypotheticals here we're not saying this test done. But what we are doing and saying is that every school district especially used to assure should participate in the 2018. To 2021 shared services. Right now they are not required to do so by New York State law. New York. Had a shared services panel agree requirement for cities towns and villages in the county for 2017 we met we matter obligations. We are not obligated to do it for 2018 but we will be obligated to do it for 2019 and beyond. We are calling on the state to include school district for 2019. As I said we are not obligated to do it for 2018 for the counties cities towns and villages but I'm announcing today. And going to convene and call all school districts in Erie county together. To hold the shared service panel meeting is if we were required to do it for a school districts. We met our obligations for seventeen is accounting. Cities and towns and villages. We don't have to do it for eighteen I don't have to do anything for 18 but I am later this year. In the summer. Going to convene. And asked the school districts to participate. And we are requesting is part of it that it actually be an elected official not just superintendent superintendent are are welcome to come but we want. That the president of the school board and superintendent there are so that we can bring school districts together to talk about this and find ways for them. To look at this issue potentially consolidate if not even consolidate find additional ways in which they can share services. This will be a benefit for all. So we're also are calling on every individual school district and 2000 students should review consolidation on a regular basis. Because almost all these school districts over 2000 students are actually seeing their population decline. So it's not gonna be that long before they get to a point where they're gonna have to make determination. Do we need to cut additional. Programs to students do we need to cut services we think based on the examination that there is substantial savings that could materialize for smaller districts to consolidate. And on an annual basis they should consider this. Article 37 of the new years in education law should be amended to eliminate at least some of the built in barriers to consolidation. It is very difficult to consolidate a school district in New York State to actually much easier to consolidate some ways it found that it is in 2000 school district. We think that should change. And education law article 37 should be changed to make it easier. Such that. Districts have an opportunity do this it makes cents. And we also believe on the transparency issue but school Fisher Fisher should make at least two years worth of inactive budgets readily available on line. The past year. The prior year. The two prior years in the future years recommended to you to enacted budget should be on line at least whether it's the current year. And the prior year or when you're talking about proposing new budget up to prior years so you can look and see the trend lines and how money is being spent in your school district. In of course we do recommend that school districts we don't have an and here we have some of the recommendations not just PowerPoint that's why I think it's important for those to take a look at port. We think that districts. We first off districts should follow New York State law and not all of them do with regard to putting their budgets on line need to be more transparent. And we recommend that a budget like Pentagon's budget be followed because it's such a good budget. It really is easy for the average citizen to identify. Where their money's going and importantly. People are able to the average citizen to look at and it's also providing information needed. So we certainly make those recommendations are the recommendations contained in the report is a comprehensive report a very proud of this report. It's long. It's in his comprehensive. But it's a it's a big subject where so we didn't wanna. It's probably a flimsy report as you often see from other levels of government. It's important that strong reports he put out for issues like yes. Why are we talking about. Consolidation can you win win win can be when for students can you went for school boards and truthfully if you went for the taxpayers. We believe it can some districts are consolidated. Not only will they come up with savings we know they'll be eligible for up to 40% of additional stated in the first fighters along. That could easily cover any additional costs that exist in the consolidation. And providing better learning experience for students. And that's what they should always be about providing the best learning experience for students. We're proud of this report. It is comprehensive there's more things in this report did not talk about. Although we know that we can go forward as a community in your account he's proud. To lead the community forward. On these issues we will lead the way we will do it in such a manner that we provided better student experience for students a better educational experience for them. And we're addressing the issues associated. With being truthfully and climate. Higher taxes. With that open up questions. It. Well. That would be part of the discussion that would be made by this school. Or represented themselves they could increase they could decrease these are volunteer positions as school boards the school where people are knocked it eight. So even if you went up for school boards five and you went up to nine. Usually want an an odd number you don't want an even number. But if you up to nine. There's really not going to be that additional cost we cannot paying school board members anything. So all I I think it would be up to the district to determine if I'm not here and say this is the way it should be done. I'm just saying we know that savings could materialize. It's savings could be put back into the student experience. And there's additional state aid to 40% additional stated in the first five years. Which would make a huge difference in some of these poor districts along. Well. And we actually did sit down with one of the superintendent we talked with folks from school board association and they told us straight up they have a difficult time filling superintendents because. These districts that they can actually make more money is assistant superintendent somewhere else with less responsibility than McCain is the superintendent. Of a large district. We think that what would happen is if you would reduce you go from one unified superintendent and chief blog example to one. North counts and even if they did it to superintendents to one. Which you also reduce the chief financial officers from five to one you did they all have assistant superintendents already. You'd be able to reduce the amount of assistant superintendent they all have external auditors five external auditors. External auditors. They all do the same work. Regardless of whether the sizes 1500 students are 4000 same workers are looking at the money. Do you go from five external waters down one that can be substantial savings in the first journal. So are we look at these are substantial savings could materialize. A savings that could go back to taxpayers and moreover can be put directly into the student experience. Learning and the additional data is huge. A lot of money for some of these districts if one of these two he's four districts merging got a 40% total additional state aid. It would make a tremendous difference. In the experience level in the educational level for the students. Former new. It. It's really alarming Jim hunters but he -- 80000 people that live in Cheektowaga and 500 people vote in polls in favor of the school budget last year. That's really scary. And it also means and it. I've I've often said the school budget vote should not be a separate state the should be deep it is either primary election or general election. Because you always have a higher trial there is no doubt about that I've been an advocate for of that for years for many reasons including. Erie county's board of elections has to provide school districts since when they have school board vote. We can reduce cost and Erie county and by eliminating these separate dates of school board votes that's something that should be. But it is very alarming and it's scary to think about it you have up. Community of over 80000 residents five school districts by. Fairly large school districts as it pertains to the suburban areas they're not huge but. And 500 people are basically determining some of these districts are blessed that means just a few thousand voting total. We need to have more partners participation there's no doubt about it but. I guarantee you to these districts started moving ahead there would be more votes because if people would be more would know more about it. Mean I know one of the school districts that we have a significant issue within their budget was Cheektowaga related. Dictionary. And not trying to denigrate Maryville but their budget was we couldn't get an on line very difficult to get it from the central office if I. And my staff have a difficult time getting information from American school district can't him Angeles an individual resident. So maybe that's why people just not even voting anymore they don't even get accurate information. It's 2018 folks we put everything on line. Well one of the things I forgot to say. Erie county has a website we share provide services to towns and villages to host a web sites iron county I'll be glad to put online free of cost any school district. Their budgets on our web sites of Republican. Just hit it where were on the do that no charge of the school districts got to place your budget outline where won't do it's a Republican he would. We'll host at no cost or school district. We have met with some representatives and she can log in at all. I do plan holding. No no one has been given re report. We have at Dallas parties and discuss the report. As for the report to come back. Truthfully because I did not trust some of the people we. Would it not just released it to the public we felt it was important to release it as we described what the reports about rather have someone else trying to. Make a report that I have an issue yet. Mean there have been people that have been critical of this report. It hasn't even been issued yet. One thing I know is that you don't critique someone's work until you actually read it. And today is today people are going to be able to read it's going to be on line and my plan we have sat down with members of school boards. And school superintendents and we get it down with the advisory county school board association. President. And talk through these issues I think they have a better understanding of where we're coming from we have an understanding where they are. But we are planning and I am planning on holding three forms across accounting. One in the northern part of counting on the central one in the south and we do plan on having individualized meetings with school board representatives. Ought superintendents and the like. We're we're we will have public forums but we're not gonna do that invite all the leadership to come in and have the discussion at that point. Because we don't think that's best way to do so we're gonna do was have permanent reforms on present this information to the public. I will be announcing the locations in the Dexter soon process. Locking those in place and then we will have individualized meetings with any school district that wants to. We think this is a very important subject that needs to be discussed but I do want to bring out to the public. Be glad to answer questions there but I'm not here to say that anyone district should merge with another. We identified three potential consolidations and there. Too because they've been discussed in the past the chief along ones in the North County team and we look at Akron and all the based on the cost through administrative costs in comparison. Considering their right next to each other durable rural communities. So but there's other ones that come off there's no reason that another district can't talk about it's not just reason in my home district elect wanna can't think about merging with another one. They're population bases is certainly drop. No reason other districts. So I just wanted to be known that we're not making a recommendation saying these districts must do it. These are three examples where we identified savings we know there's additional savings that material as the other places and moreover. I think we all our constituents. This that this work. Not only for myself and in the school districts that we uses students that they represent. Because it's all our tax dollars and Michelle here county has a tremendous amount of money that we put in the school districts we think it's important that this conversation be hell. All we're doing it on the local level middle school district's woes well. Every everybody else. Every penny matters. Every dollars. 300 dollars. 3000. I think that's got to look at I can't say what the crossings would be for counting right when talking about consequences. We believe it's imperative that those districts it down and discuss this. They have the ability to do it and in the thing that I seen from talking quietly behind the scenes with school board members. Superintendents. Is they all realize they are under the gun and they're just they they don't have anyway to cut theirselves a lot of what they're doing some of these districts can't cut anywhere else. And they realize they have no choice. They don't necessarily want to talk about it because they are afraid of the responsible yet. But I can talk about I'm not afraid to take the slings and girls. That's okay. That doesn't bother me that's part of this job. If your county executive here afraid to talk about. Controversial subject matters you shouldn't run to be county executive. Just because something's top doesn't mean you ignore. And so I'm willing to talk about these issues and not everyone's gonna like it and other people well I can tell you that from the initial response we received. When I announces that my state of accounting. A lot of people and are counting like to talk about the object and they like the idea. Because they understand. It doesn't take a genius to realize. If you live in a community. That is aging and excellent student population. Gonna cost more for everyone else who remains in the community and the community to pay for the education. For the remaining students because the education requirements are all the same whether you have 101000 students are 500 suits. If you keep on losing population in your district still have to provide the same level of education. And that just means that more people have to pay more for their more money that has to come from last people pay. Yes we did but we but but that that we've we're not gonna make an analysis because on tax rates that would be afterwards that we can't do that. Because it would depend on what the merger would be. I can't I'm not considered this would be the tax rate and be disingenuous to do it anybody who does this is the tax rate in the book for wanna go down for another. Is disingenuous because you have to actually have a plan and say here's how much it would cost if you split it out based on. The population in tax rate and you know. I can't do that and I think anybody does to you actually have a hard plan in place saying here's what we'd like to do with this merged district is being disingenuous.
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