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Walking the line: S-GI board hears ‘meat and potatoes’ budget presentation

SPRINGVILLE — “I’m not sure how much longer we can do this,” said Springville-Griffith Institute Superintendent Paul Connelly. “We’re doing our best to hold at zero. We’re pretty bare-bones and trying to deal with contractual increases in salaries.”

So began what Business Administrator Ted Welch called the “meat and potatoes” portion of a three-part budget presentation, given during the S-GI Board of Education meeting on March 25.

Welch presented the instruction and special education portion of the budget, citing as its goals maintaining a 90-100 percent graduation rate and continuing to monitor and support the implementation of the Comprehensive District Education Plan.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t call out that our graduation rates last year were 10 percent higher than the year before,” Connelly said. “Are we moving in the right direction? Absolutely. Is it tough? Absolutely.”

Welch presented the results of the community conversation that took place before the beginning of the budget process, noting that, “It seems to me that people want to protect the program that we have. We’re trying to do that.”

Those results showed that modified sports were the one thing the district “could live without,” although Connelly noted that, this year, 40 people showed up for the conversation, as opposed to 110, last year.

“I just want to give the board more info, as we move through,” Connelly said. “It’s at the board’s discretion, but we have 220 kids in modified sports, and 12 out of 40 district residents said they could do without modified sports. I’m not saying I’m for or against; I just want to put it in perspective.”

Welch said that, although the exact numbers fluctuate “almost daily,” he expected a 3.5 percent increase in staff salaries, a 10 percent increase in liability insurance and a 10 percent increase in contract transportation. Health and welfare expenses, utilities, Board of Cooperative Education Services, fuel, tires and contract expenses are also expected to increase by 5 percent. Those are external numbers, not set by the district.

One major budget item Welch recommended was the institution of a curriculum coordinator for the district. Currently, a committee of administrators and staff members are working on CDEP and the common core implementation, but he said a dedicated staff person would take some of the pressure off those individuals and help the district move forward.

“We need to decide what Springville is going to be,” Connelly said. “We’re tussling with our pedagogical philosophy and we need a cohesive approach.”

Welch added that he hoped that “the right person” could be found to help with grant applications also.

“I realize this is the worst possible budget situation to add a position,” he said. “But it’s very needed. The administration made a valiant effort, doing it on their own, but we need to put in the last piece of the puzzle, to focus on education.”

Board President Delia Bonenberger said that she supported the hiring of the coordinator, but that she wanted the district to be cautious about that person’s duties, so as not to overload that individual and end up shortchanging either grant-writing or CDEP.

“From the CDEP data, we’re in a good place,” Connelly assured the assembled. “But we need to clamp down and focus.”

He also reported that the recommendations from the CDEP committee dovetails from the recommendations for a curriculum coordinator.

“The recommendations from staff is that we really need {a coordinator]. They’re dancing as fast as they can, as am I, but it is a hole. Let’s get this together. We need to determine direction. Our math curriculum has been a concern since before I got here. The state hasn’t even gotten it together, yet. We need to say, ‘this is what we’re going to do, at this juncture.’ We’re in a moment of flux, and we’re not sure what’s the best approach for our kids. The whole state is in flux and while the state is, we’re in flux.”

The institution of that position created a 17.6 percent increase in the curriculum development and supervision budget and a 53.89 percent increase in in-service training and instruction.

An increase of 51.09 percent under BOCES computer-assisted instruction will go toward purchasing, as Welch put it, “all the equipment our kids put their fingers on.” Each year, that fund alternates between budget lines 1680 and 2630, which is where it falls, this year. Line 1680 is for administrative equipment, which was instituted last year.

Other sizeable increases came in the form of a 115 percent increase in social work, because of the hiring of a second social worker for the Family Support Center. That person is already in place, but was not budgeted, last year.

BOCES costs under interscholastic athletics have increased 53.23 percent. That covers athletic certification for coaches, scheduling, Erie County Interscholastic Conference dues and other expenses.

In total, the instructional budget will increase 2.61 percent. At press time, the budget was $35,968,953. The current gap is $1,081,545.

“Obviously, we need to make another pass through the program,” Welch said, of those numbers. “We’re going to try not to do any cuts to the kids, but see where we can save money. Let’s hope we get that boost in state aid a lot of people think we will and hope the governor doesn’t restrict the property tax cap any more than he already has.

“The next step is, at our April 1 meeting, the superintendent will present his recommended budget. It’ll be a balanced budget. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we’ll know what the state is going to do. If we don’t, our string of on-time [state] budgets might be in jeopardy.”

In other board matters:

– Board member Alison Duwe asked whether more recycling programs could be instituted in the district.

Welch explained that a lot of the buildings have recycling programs sponsored by parent-teacher associations, student council or individual organizations, but that he had a call in to Waste Management to discuss district-wide options.

– Connelly noted that the Family Support Center is currently supporting 24 regular families. “That’s just spectacular,” he said.

– A resolution was approved to place Proposition No. 2 on the budget vote ballot. That proposition is to authorize the district to purchase four 66-passenger buses, at an estimated cost of $115,896, and two 21-passenger buses, at an estimated cost of $66,981 each, at a sum not to exceed $597,546. Transportation aid is expected to offset a substantial part of those costs.

– The board also authorized the district clerk to publish an official notice of the budget vote. That vote will take place on May 20.

– The board held a moment of silence for former Springville Elementary School principal and longtime employee Scott Tellgren.

He died March 24 in Bertrand Chaffee Hospital.

The next board meeting will be held on April 1 at 7 p.m. at the S-GI High School library and media center.

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