If Governor Andrew Cuomo keeps a vice-like grip on the purse strings in Albany for the next three years, it will prove to be disastrous. That’s what superintendent Robert Dufour told a packed house at the March 15 meeting of the board of the Eldred Central School District. Dufour said that the district has tapped into $700,000 of its reserve account in an attempt to compensate for paltry state aid out of Albany in recent years. If this pattern plays out for the next two years, reserves will be tapped out and the “prognosis would not look good.”
He has urged the state to provide additional aid when visiting with politicians in Albany and said that school districts statewide depend on two routes to fund budgets: state aid and taxes. He said if state funding is not there, residents will have to face hikes in school taxes.
Two teachers “took advantage of the early retirement incentive so money will be saved through attrition,” and Dufour said the teachers would be “sorely missed.”
Albany has been drafting and re-drafting budgets, but it is likely there will be an “on-time” budget in April, which will give Eldred the time to adjust its budget according to how much aid comes from the state.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Dufour. “We can expect additional aid; we just don’t know how much. Things change in Albany on a daily basis; we don’t know where we stand.”
He also addressed some rumors spreading throughout the district. Dufour flatly denied the rumors of one of the schools closing. Further, there was another rumor of both of the schools closing and having students bused to Monticello and Port Jervis.
“I went to school in Eldred,” school board president Doug Reiser said, “and I’m confident my grandchildren will graduate from the Eldred school system.”
As in the workshop held recently, residents batted about myriad ideas about how the district could save money. One suggestion was to secure more efficient fuel rates, but Reiser said the fuel is decided by a consortium that is “very good—in fact better than the school districts that have state contracts.”
Resident Mary Jones, who recently moved from New York City, said that with all of Eldred’s financial problems her take on Eldred is “it’s like a dream come true,” compared to the political machine she had encountered in New York City. A former business owner, Jones urged the board to cut where they can, even if it means nickel and diming to reach the desired results.
A major concern, which was also discussed in the recent workshop, is how the first grade, with 28 students in each class, is going to fare without a teacher’s aide. One parent described those classrooms as “chaotic” because children have such high energy at that age. The worry is that, because students progress at varying levels, some students will fall behind in gaining crucial first-grade reading skills.