Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 17, 2014

State report lists Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield in 'significant fiscal stress'

Niagara Gazette — Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield school district residents who’ve seen their property tax bill increase over the past three or four years know the news Thursday couldn’t be great pertaining to their communities.

New data released by the New York State Comptroller’s Office Thursday, monitoring “fiscal stress” of the state’s 674 school districts through June 2013, shows just how troubling the financial situation is in these neighborhood education hubs.

Both of the districts, each coming off at least two years of major economic struggle, have landed on the list of districts facing “significant” fiscal stress. It means they’re categorized with the worst designation a district can receive in Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s report.

“When we went through the budgeting process, we knew we were in a world of trouble,” Lew-Port Superintendent Christopher Roser said. “We knew our backs would be up against the wall, that we’d have to weather the storm of Gap Elimination and some of the other challenges we faced. We were able to two years ago, but we weren’t able to last year and that’s when you saw all of the layoffs we had to make.”

The two districts join West Seneca as the only ones in the “significant” category in Western New York, a determination made using financial indicators that include year-end fund balance, cash position and patterns of operating deficits.

The comptroller’s office analyzed separate environmental indicators to help provide insight into the health of the local economy and other challenges that might affect a school district’s finances. These include student enrollment, property value, budget vote results and poverty.

The data is converted into a percentage and weighted to show how much a school district can struggle financially to meet the needs of its students in a four-level grading system. For instance, Lew-Port’s environmental score was 12 percent but fiscally measured 82 percent, exceeding the 65 percent score level marking the “significant” stress category.

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