How do you raise money for public schools when the public and the state really can’t contribute anymore? Niagara Falls is trying to figure that out.
"Raising taxes: We cannot do that in this city," said Mark Laurrie, superintendent of the Niagara Falls City School District. "We have a median income of $30,000. If the school district raised taxes, we’d just end up owning homes."
The child poverty rate in the city of Niagara Falls is about double the national average, according to U.S. Census data. And Laurrie said he understands that the state has limited resources to dole out. So he’s thinking about something new: corporate sponsorships for athletic facilities and performing arts centers.
"There is no model out there in the state to do this," Laurrie said, speaking at a school board meeting on Thursday evening.
Amy Starck, the consultant who's spearheading the sponsorship project, gave an update to the board at the meeting. She emphasized that the project is still in its early phases and that it's too early to start naming potential sponsors. However, Starck did outline the categories of potential sponsors she's researching, which include prominent alumni, large national corporations, local and national foundations and major corporations in Western New York and the Niagara Falls region.
"We want to be very careful and we want to be very cognicent of how we display and what naming opportunities or sponsorship opportunities we have out there," Starck said. "We don’t want every single nook and cranny of these different facilities to be named and covered in signage."
Laurrie added that the district is seeking sponsorships for both athletic and performing arts facilities because theater and the arts are just as important in Niagara Falls as sports.
The school board hopes to secure sponsorships by fall or early winter, and Laurrie promised that the funds will go directly to student programs.
"Not salaries, not hiring more teachers. It’ll go back into the field or theater that it’s sold for to give enhancements in new uniforms, new band equipment, etc."