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April 27, 2022 - 8:00am

Elba Central battles inflation, proposes 2.5 percent budget increase

posted by Joanne Beck in news, Elba Central School, 2022-23 budget, notify, elba.

As Genesee County school districts provide details about their 2022-23 budgets, there seems no escaping inflation, and Elba Central Superintendent Gretchen Rosales isn’t afraid to admit she’s looking to cut corners.

Rosales, with the assistance of her district treasurer, Lisa Penna, has joined the list of district administrators who have pointed to the problem of rising prices for everything from electric and gasoline to wood.

“Some of the issues that we face include the sharp increase in utilities and other expenses. We have found that materials we need to operate have doubled in price. For example, the lumber for the high school construction class has nearly doubled,” Rosales said to The Batavian this week. “In order for our students to have the same experiences they have always had, we need to figure out where to cut corners in other areas. Everything from the cost of food to the topsoil we purchase has increased dramatically.”

Rosales and Penna have been working closely to create a budget that is “both fiscally responsible and also maximizes our expenditures to best serve the needs” of Elba Central School students, the superintendent said. 

The district has proposed a budget of $11,215,950, which is a 2.5 percent increase from the current budget. Rosales doesn’t expect any related tax rate increase, as the rate has decreased over the last year due to the estimated average assessed property values, she said. 

The financial plan includes a $100,000 Capital Outlay Project for enhancements to district security (re-keying the building, installing reinforced doors) and improving the heating/ventilation and air conditioning system and the boilers. 

A 65-passenger bus is also in the budget,  and that should be reimbursed by the state for up to 90 percent of the cost, she said. 

While the 2.5 percent increase is partially due to contractual obligations, instructional programs and BOCES services (occupational and special education), there are other reasons for this year’s proposed extra spending, she said.

Those rising prices, coupled with a steep increase in health insurance for employees, have prompted a focus on making cuts of any unnecessary expenses while “still providing top-notch instruction,” she said. 

“Being good stewards of the public's investment in education is not something that we take lightly; schools are not the only organizations feeling the pain of supply chain issues and rising costs,” Rosales said. “The families in the Elba community are feeling it just like everyone else.   Being cognizant of that reality is our primary focus right now.” 

She is thankful for a “great leadership team” that’s willing to be creative with new ideas for the student population. The district wants to hire a part-time social worker to better meet the needs of students in a post-pandemic time period, she said. That’s another common thread amongst county districts: counteract what was lost to students during two years of remote and hybrid learning away from class. The hiring process has just begun for this position, she said.

“We are also looking at enrichment and extension programs to help students bridge the learning gap that happened during COVID.  Schools will certainly need to contend with the COVID pandemic for years to come,” she said. “Elba is lucky in the sense that our small, tight-knit community is nurturing and supportive; we will continue to work through any challenges with this in mind.”

Another part of the upcoming budget vote are board members, both new and long-serving, she said. Current President Mike Augello will be stepping down from his role later this year, while newcomer Mercy Caparco and Travis Torrey run for two open seats.

Collaboration has been key to working on a budget, Rosales said, and she is “very thankful” for the help of Penna as district treasurer, her district clerk Donna Harris, a leadership team composed of department heads and the board.

“Of course, the Board of Education has always had the community's best interests at the forefront of this process; we want to be fiscally responsible while still providing the best education around,” she said. “I think we have a great balance in the 22-23 budget.”

The district’s vote will be from noon to 8 p.m. on May 17. There are four propositions to be on the ballot: The total budget, purchase of a new 65-passenger bus, authorizing a $100,000 Capital Outlay Project, and a vote for two Board of Education seats. 

For more information, go the district’s website at: elbacsd.org

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