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Planning for ‘the perfect storm’

August 3, 2011

“The future of the school district will be decided on the second Thursday of every month between now and April,” said Eldred Central School (ECS) superintendent Robert Dufour during a recent interview exploring the long-term impacts of the contingency budget now in place at ECS. “The community’s attendance is crucial.”

“Each meeting will be more important than the one before,” added Dufour. “Every decision reflective of the running of these schools is made at the board meetings.”

ECS is now operating under a contingency budget, following the proposed budget’s defeat in May by 18 votes. Dufour detailed some of the impacts. “We can’t purchase any equipment costing more than $1,000, can’t give raises to anyone not covered under a collective bargaining agreement, must eliminate non-essential maintenance and not pursue capital projects except in case of an emergency.”

The defeated $18 million budget has been stripped of $1.2 million dollars, resulting in a final budget of $16.5 million. Most of the cuts are coming from necessary repairs that were slated for the George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School in Glen Spey. A full-size school bus and van, part of the long-term vehicle update plan at the district, have also been eliminated.

Community groups that seek to use the buildings after hours or on weekends will now have to pay a facilities use fee of $150 for a 2-hour minimum usage, as established last month by the board at its monthly meeting.

Additional discussion about the fitness center will take place due to operating costs for salaries, electricity, air conditioning and heat. “The board will discuss whether it should be spending approximately $40,000 annually, even though it benefits the community, when we’re looking to possibly discontinue programs because we’re on a contingency budget,” said ECS board president Douglas Reiser.

“Our primary charge is to provide education,” said Dufour. “There are a lot of things people are used to the district doing that we may not be able to do any more. The fitness center is a great service for the community, but we have to balance what that expense would buy if we reapplied it educationally.”

While developing the 2011-12 budget, Dufour and ECS school business administrator William Thornton realized that a more serious set of issues is on the horizon with the approach of the 2012-13 budget.