Some details remain undecided, as Buffalo Schools present budget to city leaders today

May 3, 2018

Buffalo Public School leaders meet with the Common Council Thursday to talk about their proposed school budget for next year. Not all the details were set on that plan by Wednesday evening's School Board meeting.

Board members had a chance to hear about the latest version of the budget and start asking questions about the effect of the plan on the schools in their districts, or across the city for the at-large members. CFO Geoffrey Pritchard said it is a $916 million spending plan, balanced with $19 million from accumulated reserves.

The rapid pace of change in the district, like the new innovative high school program, leaves questions about spending when the schools are only a year or two old. Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said it is complicated.

"Our new innovative high schools are brand new. They don't have a full grade configuration and, they, some kids have one grade, some kids have two grades," said Cash. "They are in good standing, but it's a sort of a superfluous heading because they just started. So they actually have fewer students, but need that full counseling, that full AP."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Associate Superintendent for School Leadership Sabatino Cimato said spending is being shaved.
"Not just on the new innovative schools, but also in other schools throughout the district that we would still examine with Dr. Cash at the appropriate time," said Cimato. "But, right now, what they did was, they would take and they would cut, a cut may have been a point-two for math or a point-two from ELA instead of cutting an entire department."

Schools were asked for cuts and some district-wide operations, like central administration, were cut to reduce the anticipated deficit from around $35 million down to the $19 million to be made up from reserves. Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash says the plan is to retain those cuts next year as the district pushes to have an actual balanced budget, not one balanced with reserves.

In a challenge to Cash, Board Member Sharon Belton Cottman said she is going to try to accumulate enough board votes to block the closing and sale of School 187, the former Academy for Visual and Performing Arts on Clinton Street.

Much time was also spent Wednesday evening on other topics, like special education and libraries, but details are still be be decided. Belton Cottman said the much larger issue for her is troubled students in a lot of schools with weak test scores and limited resources.

"Where's all the resources?" she asked. "In addition to that, if you take who is coming into the building - which I have no understanding how students can make it to the ninth grade and only reading at a certain level - to me, I think that that's just pure negligence. Okay. But the majority of the students are not reading anywhere near sixth grade level.Okay. And we don't see resources. So where's the ownership of the data?"