ERIE, Pa. - Emerson-Gridley Elementary School closed last June during the Erie School District's consolidation process. But starting this fall, students could be in the classrooms once again, becoming the home to the district's Recovery Academy among other alternative education programs.

"By centralizing everything into one location, we feel that not only can we continue the work that we have done but we can actually make all of the programs better by giving them more services," said Neal Brokman, the district's coordinator of alternative programming.

Erie News Now first visited the academy last September, which gives about 160 students the chance to make up courses and help them graduate on-time. Right now, the academy is housed in the family center at E. 9th & Payne Streets, a deal that costs over $440,000. The move to Emerson-Gridley would save taxpayers approximately $235,000 in rent and other expenses, according to Superintendent Brian Polito.

"The science distribution center, we will necessarily be looking to make the move until next year," Brokman said. "The current lease does not expire until 2020."

All of that will be factored into the district's 2018-19 budget. The preliminary version was released Wednesday and includes what the board and administration feels is a minimal half-percent property tax increase that could generate more than $209,000.

"If you look at our history, we have several years of (zero increase) and then several years with bigger tax increases that all average out to a cost-of-living increase," Polito said. The district raised taxes a half-percent for the 2017-18 school year, but previously raised them as much as 7.3 percent.

The $200.4 million spending plan capital project upgrades to existing buildings. That tax hike would cost about $8 more for the average homeowner -- money that could be used right in the classroom.

"I think we're going to be able to add some of the programming that's coming out of our strategic plan for next year," Polito said.

The district is scheduled to pass their final budget on June 20.

Blocking SB 2

Meantime, the Erie School Board is expected to approve a resolution next week that would fight back against a school choice proposal under consideration by state lawmakers.

Senate Bill 2 creates a voucher-like program for students to attend charter or parochial schools. SB 2 would take money away from public school districts, like Erie's Public Schools, and allow students to attend another institution of their choice.

Superintendent Brian Polito urged the board to support the resolution, which is led by board member Darlene Feeney. The resolution, which is mostly symbolic in nature, would then go to local lawmakers in an attempt to persuade them to vote against SB 2.

"We advocated extremely hard to get that $14 million," Feeney said of the district's additional state funding approved last year. "Then to have this bill come up and potentially take those funds away from us, for us not to be educated and advocating for that I think would be a little negligent."

About 13 percent of the district's budget goes to funding local charter schools.