Some school leaders in the Southern Tier are having a tough time staying out of the red.
Officials have already started crunching the numbers for next year's budget. Our Crystal Cranmore explains what two districts in Chemung County are might do to alleviate some of the financial stress.
ELMIRA HEIGHTS, N.Y. -- It’s a new year but the hurdles remain the same for the Elmira Heights School District.
“The trajectory continues and we are left with a proposed budget that only gives us some slight relief but not enough to combat the issues of some of the expenses that we have on the books,” said Elmira Heights superintendent Mary Beth Fiore.
With the governor's proposed foundation aid of $5.8 million, the district estimates it will still come up short by about $638,000 next school year. Administrators say the State's Gap Elimination Adjustment or GEA is the issue.
“If it were to disappear tomorrow, we would be in the regulated tax cap and we'd be able to maintain the current level of programming for our students,” said Fiore.
The district lost more than $6 million in aid since the GEA was implemented in 2010. To help make up the difference, school officials dipped into their savings and eliminated more than a dozen positions in the last three years.
Now they are thinking outside the box, working with the Horseheads School District to explore consolidation, not just as a means to save money.
“The ultimate goal is to see if we can preserve programs for students, better deliver programs for students in a different model,” said Fiore.
The two districts have been in talks with state leaders to officially begin the study. School leaders plan to have a joint meeting next month to outline the dynamics in each district. Some parents agree with the plan.
“I think that it is something that is necessary in order to preserve the extracurricular things and sports, things like that that are really important for the kids. Financially that seems like the way they’re going to have to do it,” said Lynda Page.
The consolidation study is funded through the states local government efficiency grant.
School leaders are expected to have that joint meeting on February 24.