The Eden School Board approved a $25.7 million budget April 15 it will submit to residents that cuts spending across many lines and relies heavily on unsecured savings of $400,000.
This sixth budget revision already contained the reduction of 5 full time faculty, a .2 reduction in the Gifted and Talented program from 3rd and 4th grades; a 5 percent cut in athletics saving $22,000 a reduction of $16,000 in department chairs and the deletion of the 5 p.m. bus runs. However, after those changes along with other efficiencies, the district was still faced with an $1.2 million budget gap.
Added in this session was a 10 percent reduction in supplies and materials in all areas for savings of $214,691.90; 5 percent reduction in club and other stipends, $6,626.00; and 5 percent cuts in non mandated music $21,902.45 and art, $11,865.20 and the reduction of one administrative position saving $136,608.00. There will also be a $400,000 reduction in health care costs. After reviewing some of the heavily trafficked routes students would need to traverse, a proposal to save $8,123,13 by requiring students from grades 7 to 12 to walk one mile or less was withdrawn from the document. The Board also reinstated a 6-hour cleaner position adding $6,483.00 back into the budget. After adding in an appropriated fund balance of $425,562.00 the budget will still remain some $17,000 in the red. To address the deficit, Superintendent Sandra Anzalone was asked to find an equal amount of additional savings in district operations.
The key to this final draft will be getting the district’s unions to agree to change their health care coverage to the NY44 plan which is used by many school districts in the area. According to Anzalone the plan, aside from offering savings to the district, will should also offer out-of-pocket savings to employees. “I have it and have not had to cover any co-pays with it,” Anzalone said. The superintendent said she would bring the proposal to the unions this coming Wednesday but could not speculate when they might respond.
With union approval unknown, the board grappled with assuming the plan would garner union support, or make an additional $400,000 in cuts. By consensus they opted for optimism but could find themselves back at the table if the proposal is rejected.
The other major reduction, an Administrative position cut, drew the largest attention from other administrators and the public. At this point it seems that the post scheduled for elimination is the Assistant Principal position at the Jr. -Sr. High School currently held by Patricia Menkiena. Her performance drew praise from one parent who cited Menkiena’s ability to deal with problem students, “She reins them in, talks to them, reasons with them and tells them there are consequences for their actions,” she said. Mirroring those comments was Eden Police Lt. John McCarthy. Noting his 15 years in the building, he credited Menkiena with helping make the building safe. Saying removing the office would pose a “grave concern”, McCarthy said that many issues with young people have been resolved in the vice principal’s office and avoiding police intervention. He continued that not only is the building safe, but other police agencies assisting with periodic drug searches have been amazed that nothing has been found in Eden schools in recent years.
Although chaperoning an out-of-town band trip, Jr.-Sr. High Principal Marc Graff weighed in through a written statement. He said one of the factors that led him to join the Eden district was the support offered by other positions, especially the Vice Principal. Graff said that he knows he can leave day-to-day operations in Menkiena’s hands while he meets with peers shaping programs such as the new state mandated teacher reviews. Likewise, he cited the ability of Menkiena to also attend seminars and bring that information back to the district.
Elementary Principal Richard Schaefer urged the board to broaden the scope of “administrative.” He questioned the board, “Who are the administrators? Are they just the principals and directors? Does it include supervisors, the athletic director?” Schaefer also offered his own proposals noting that there is a looming retirement of one principal and said the administrative sector has already shown capable of reduction with a shared transportation director with Springville and an interim business manager and until recently an interim superintendent. He further suggested that the board consider merging the athletic director position with the information technology post. As a parting suggestion he suggested the board consider not retaining a curriculum director, but rather fold those duties into current staff.
In other business the board:
• Approved the superintendent to seek requests for proposals from architectural firms to create a new visitor’s parking lot in the “loop” area and create a main entrance to the Jr.-Sr. High building. Noting the recent focus on budget, the board sought clarification that it was not bound to undertake the project, which it is not. Interim Business Officer Loraine Ingrasci reminded the board that the district maintains a reserve fund that can only be used for capital projects such as this. Board member Colin Campbell injected that any changes to creating a main entrance would also have to be reviewed for its effect on the school’s safety plan.
• Anzalone reflected on her first three weeks with the district noting that one consisted of spring break. She attended the National Honor Society induction ceremony and found the new members to be role models for the entire school. She has also been sought out by parents and has been meeting with student leaders.