There are five different school districts in the Town of Cheektowaga. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says by merging them into one district, even without cutting any teaching jobs or school buildings, taxpayers in Cheektowaga could save more than $2 million.
Poloncarz called for the districts to increase operation sharing methods to cut costs and look into merging the districts. That $2 million in savings would come from "the elimination of duplicative administrative offices", according to the county executive.
In his State of Erie County address Thursday, Poloncarz hinted at an "eye-opening" report he plans to release in the next few weeks that looks at how much money taxpayers could save by reorganization of local school districts.
Cheektowaga Central, Cheektowaga Sloan, Cleveland Hill, Maryvale and Depew are the five school districts specifically called out by Poloncarz. The five superintendents were all caught off guard by the announcement.
"We were completely blindsided and also extremely disappointed," Superintendent Jon MacSwan of Cleveland Hill said.
The five superintendents released a joint statement in response to the county executive's statements. They point out a possible merger was explored in 2014, but research showed it wouldn't actually save taxpayers that much money. New York State, at the time, didn't approve funding for additional studies.
"It was declined as we did not meet the criteria," MacSwan said. "They felt as though the efficiencies and potential money savings weren't there for the districts."
According to MacSwan, mergers between districts really only create noticeable cost savings if the districts have fewer than 1,000 students. Each of the five Cheektowaga districts exceeds that mark.
The districts already work with each other and with Erie 1 BOCES to cut costs by sharing services like staff training, therapists, speech teachers and others.
"What this does it is allows us to not take on that responsibility ourselves for hiring that staff, but again sharing those costs and partnering with BOCES to hire such staff," Superintendent Andrea Galenski of Cheektowaga Sloan explained.
The superintendents also say being smaller than some other districts in Western New York gives their students more opportunities to get involved at school.