CLARENCE, N.Y - Zach Bakowski doesn't pay taxes -- not yet, at least -- because he's still in high school.
But he's not happy that voters in his town rejected a 9.8 percent tax increase this summer in favor of a budget with smaller increases and $2.5 million in cuts to the Clarence Central School District. The decision forced it to cut almost 60 activities, like drama clubs, art clubs, marching band, freshmen sports and other extra-curriculars.
"They just want that extra $100 in their pockets," Bakowski said.
So when he starts his senior year on Wednesday, he'll have a lot of classmates wondering why their activities suddenly disappeared.
They haven't vanished forever, though. For example, the freshmen football team wasn't supposed to play this year, but it'll suit up at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday for its season opener. That's because a group named Clarence Schools Enrichment Foundation has spent the past two months fighting to restore all of the sports and clubs lost to budget cuts. So far, CSEF has already donated close to $39,000 to restore all of the previously-cut fall sports, as well as four additional high school and middle school clubs.
"There's more to a well-rounded education," President Vic Martucci said, "than just reading, writing and arithmetic."
Martucci has three children-- the first two graduated from the district, and the youngest is a sophomore in high school. His foundation has attacked the budget cuts in four phases. The first phase focused on fall sports, since they began in August. At the Sept. 16th board meeting, the foundation will present more money to restore as many clubs and activities as possible, since they mostly begin in October. After that, the focus will shift to winter and spring sports.
So far, CSEF has raised more than $78,000.
"I don't think we've even scratched the surface," Martucci said. "We really believe that when school starts on Wednesday, and kids come home from school and they tell their mom and dad, 'you know that club I wanted to sign up for? It got cut because of the school budget'... I really think we'll see a spike once more parents realize what happened."
Bakowski is already familiar with the cuts. He takes a vocational course at BOCES and considers himself more of a hands-on learner, so he said he relates to students who rely on clubs and activities as opposed to traditional school work.
"There's some kids who can't do bookwork to save their lives," Bakowski said. "And hands-on learning is more their thing."
"I would love to have it back."