by Autumn Evans
The Niagara-Wheatfield School Board voted Wednesday to reinstate the athletic, music, theater and other extracurricular activities that were cut from the 2014-15 budget earlier this year. The sudden vote was the result of a report provided by Superintendent Lynn Marie Fusco, which revealed an unanticipated source of funding available to support the programs.
Fusco said that, as a result of 11 retirements and resignations processed after the budget was put into place, the district had in excess of $158,000, originally slated for those employees' salaries, available for use. Fusco said reinstating the extracurriculars would cost about $111,000, leaving just under $50,000 available for reserve.
Board President Steven Sabo submitted a motion to use the funds to reinstate all of the cut extracurriculars, which the board unanimously passed. They offered enthusiastic support of the plan.
"This is huge for our kids," said board member Gina Terbot, also a member of the Niagara-Wheatfield Sports Alliance. "I am thrilled we're bringing everything back."
Terbot encouraged those parents to continue their fundraising efforts, though.
"I see some of the music parents out there, I see some of the sports parents," she said. "Wouldn't it be great to come up with that $12,000 for music next year and $87,000 for sports, and not need it and be able to do something extra with it for a change?"
Ex-officio student board member Joshua Ranney spoke about the program from the perspective of an affected student.
"I am a music student and I'm involved with the theater," he said. "Speaking on behalf of them, I know that just the fact that it was brought up as a consideration is such a huge deal, considering the fact that last year we knew for a fact that it was gone - like, no chance. I know everyone else is extremely excited to see how this musical will play out - pun intended."
Parents of students also supported the decision.
Wheatfield resident Karen Anderson's son attends Niagara-Wheatfield High School and is involved in both music and sports. She was glad to see the programs coming back.
"(It means) opportunity; our kids get to do things that are valuable and meaningful with their time, " she said. "And this decision affects hundreds of kids, not just a handful - that's big. That's using money wisely."
Though none of the board members were opposed to reinstating the programs, there was some negative feedback regarding the suddenness of the vote.
"I really wish I had the information a little bit ahead of one minute before we're voting an affirmation vote," said board member Amy Duell. Fellow board member Darren Sneed agreed the information could have come earlier. Fusco said the funds were first discovered about two weeks ago during an examination of finances for auditing purpose, and were then explored more.
Sanborn resident RoseMary Warren also addressed the board at the end of the meeting, questioning why the savings were not investigated sooner.
As a whole, however, both the board and the public expressed positive opinions of the decision.
"This is one of the times that, as a board member, you feel happy with the meeting - that there's something positive coming back to the kids," Sabo said.