TRR photo by Susan Wade

The Eldred School District is aiming toward financial stability. 

Eldred number one in fiscal stress

ELDRED, NY —It is indeed topsy-turvy when being “number one” and achieving the highest score is a bad thing in academia. But in the world of Fiscal Stress Monitoring, that is exactly the case. 

The NYS Comptroller’s Office recently released the results of its annual review of public entities, including school districts, and notified the Eldred administration that for the fiscal year 2017-18, the district’s position had dropped from one of the two most-stressed school districts to number one, with a score of 73 out of 100. The score for the previous year under review had been 65.

The current review covers a time period when the fiscal year budget had been established by a prior administration. A few months into the 2017-18 fiscal year, then-superintendent Robert Dufour left to assume the position of superintendent of Sullivan BOCES. Shortly after the report was issued in January 2018, the then-business manager Ruth Luiz tendered her resignation.

Superintendent Dr. John Morgano said that the report results were no surprise. Business manager Caleb Russell stated that the period under review was one in which budgeted revenues were never realized, and the general fund balance was in a state of continued decline. By the end of the period under review, the general fund balance, which is akin to money in the bank, was $65,878 in the red. For Eldred, a healthy general fund balance would be about $800,000.

Both officials were quick to point out that although it will take time to lead the district out of this fiscal morass, steps have been taken and plans have been initiated to restore the district to fiscal stability, including the downsizing of the teaching force that occurred at the end of the last school year.

The school board has announced its intention to ask voters to “bust” the tax cap as its members seek a 4.95% tax increase in May. Morgano is on record as saying repeatedly that a commitment to live within the district’s financial means coupled with the promised one-time tax increase in excess of the tax cap, the district will be restored to financial stability within the next five years.

His plan to restore financial stability and increase academic outcomes is captured in a brief strategic plan, which encompasses plans and changes through 2023. The five-year plan acknowledges the need to systemically address technology and textbook replenishment, safety and security issues and facility needs, among other issues.

The document is available through the district’s website.

Also included in the document are academic plans for both the elementary and junior-senior high schools. Morgano admitted that this section of the plan needs significant beefing up.

“We’ve been busy bailing out the boat, and you can’t build a new boat while bailing out the old boat,” he said.

He acknowledged that the academic plan should be the bulk of the strategic plan, not the two pages it currently encompasses. Morgano reaffirmed his commitment to elevating academics, while stating that despite the small size of the Eldred system, there is greater flexibility than in many other districts regarding students’ ability to obtain classes, including those that grant college credit.

 

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