The School District of the City of Erie is going into another year with its budget in the red. With rising costs in retirements, and less funding coming to urban schools, the district is looking into a number of ways of bringing revenue in. And recently, its been struggling with a declining tax base.
"A big chunk of that [the budget] certainly is property tax," said Thomas Spagel, school board member. "Since we cannot raise property tax so much so that people can't afford it, where else are we going to go?"
Superintendent Dr. Jay Badams says the vote by Erie County Council on Tuesday to back the tax-exempt hotel along the bayfront is continuing the disproportion of non-taxable properties in the city that the school district is forced to deal with.
"It just limits our revenue and what it also does is it means when we do raise taxes, we're raising it on a smaller percentage of the properties with the city, so that means it disproportionately effects our residential property owners and our businesses," said Dr. Badams.
Badams says the burden though, is on the district, and he wants people to know, the they don't grant these tax exemptions.
"For example, if an entity seeks tax exemption status, it's up to us first of all to be aware of that, and to actually show up at whatever hearing, come up to either contest or at least observe."
Spagel is also frustrated with this recent decision. After making what he called severe cuts last year, he doesn't want to do it again. That's why he was pleased when the Nouva Aurora Society donated $3,000 to help homeless children in the district during this week's board meeting. But he also called it ironic.
"If the county board would think the way the social boards do, we'd be better off because they see, the social clubs see, we are doing a great job and trying to increase community through education."
Dr. Badams and the rest of the board say they encourage development, they would just like to be included in any discussion.