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Three local school districts on 'stressed' list

Three local schools districts have been identified as being in a state of significant fiscal stress. 

The list is put together by the staff of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, based on data school districts file with Albany, with 12 across the state listed as significantly fiscally stressed.

On the list: Lewiston-Porter, Niagara-Wheatfield and West Seneca.  All three schools say there are problems, many of them caused by Albany cutting aid and forcing cost increases like DiNapoli's rising pension cost bills.

The three-local districts also say they are trying to cut costs and it hurts education. Niagara-Wheatfield Superintendent Lynn Marie Fusco said even looking ahead isn't easy.

"To look out and try to predict what we are going to see over the next three to five years and put a plan together that's going to achieve incremental goals as we move toward that, let's say, five year end point while maintaining as much programming for students as possible," said Lynn Marie Fusco.

After a series of cuts in state aid, Albany is expected to put a lot more money into aid in this election year while not changing much else.  And, even increasing aid overall doesn't always help an individual district.

Lewiston Porter Superintendent Chris Roser telling WBFO  aid formulas mean some districts get more and some not much.

"Lewiston-Porter is seen as a relatively affluent school district. And so, we're not going to get the state aid. So, you are going to get some school districts that are going to get eight percent or more and you are going to have school districts like Lewiston-Porter that will get a nominal amount," said Roser.

Superintendents said it's not simple and not easy to hold down costs and many difficult cuts have already been made, like major teacher and staff layoffs. They also note even if the number of students’ drops as in most districts staff cuts can be complicated.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.