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August 31, 2016
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Amount of Eldred embezzlement still a mystery; Teachers offered buy-outs

None of the missing funds with which former Eldred Central School District Business Administrator William Thornton allegedly absconded has been recovered to date. Superintendent Robert Dufour’s only reference to the matter at the school board meeting on January 10 was that he was grateful to the New York State Police for all that they did in bringing out the improprieties alleged against the embattled Thornton.

“In Eldred, it’s the state police that handle a matter of this kind,” said Doug Reiser, school board president.

Taxpayers can expect to pay $6,000 for an audit into just how much money may have been pilfered by Thornton.

Thornton, whose salary topped $86,000, or 73% higher than the state average, resigned in November for alleged financial improprieties. He has served in the position since July 2010, but held various other positions within the school district in an approximate tenure of 10 years.

The board did break for executive session to discuss legal matters, but because of the nature of executive sessions it was unclear if the Thornton case was at issue.

On the superintendent’s webpage on the school’s internet site, Dufour said that the dollar amount of missing funds would be determined by the January 10 board meeting, but Reiser said on January 11, “That’s still not a matter of public knowledge.”

“The missing money damages the district,” Reiser told The River Reporter, “but the job of the board is to address the educational needs of the students,” he said.

Thornton could not be reached for comment.

The board announced it is offering incentives to teachers eligible to retire in order to help the district’s bottom line. “We’ve never offered this before” Dufour said, “but the financial savings and the savings in health care will be beneficial.”

Dufour continued, “We have to reduce our budget; this is one way of doing it, because the teachers coming in will be doing so on a different salary.”

There are at least five teachers who are considering this proposal. If all five took advantage of the offer, it would mean a savings of $60,000 would be “built into the budget.”

At least one board member was apprehensive about such a buy-out. Linda Bohs said, “’I’m not so sure I’m in favor of it.” But in speaking on the matter, another member, Carol Bliefernich, said, “In this fiscal economy, we have to do everything in our power to lower our costs.”

“There’s a possibility that no one will take it,” said Dufour. Teachers who plan to take it must file by March 29.

Acting business administrator Kevin Callagy told the approximately 20 people in attendance that the 2013-2014 budget would have a deficit of just under $300,000. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

He reported that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo promised this week a 3.5% increase in education spending for the upcoming year. “The bottom line is to balance the budget,” Callagy said.

That budget, as it stands now, is $16,179,954.