By Elizabeth Riggs

Prior to outlining inclusions for the 2017-2018 school budget, in a special hearing last Tuesday, the Ellicottville School Board announced that Middle School and High School Principal Bob Miller will become the next ECS Superintendent.

“The board has completed its search for our new superintendent to take over upon Mark’s retirement. I’m happy to announce that the board has selected Mr. Bob Miller,” said ECS Board of Education President Carl Calarco.

Miller has been at ECS for 12 years, and will fill the shoes of current Superintendent Mark Ward, who will retire effective July 1.

“I’m ready and excited,” Miller said of the appointment.

After making the announcement, School Board Treasurer Aimee Kilby and Ward went on to outline the proposed 2017-2018 school year budget, with a spending plan that goes slightly above the Tax Cap and an overall budget up nearly $417,000.

Prior to the vote on Tuesday, May 16, voters should be aware that the proposed budget will allocate for the following:

Computers: The school will purchase around 70 new laptop computers in order to provide one to each sixth grade student for use at the school.

A security system: In order to increase safety and more effectively monitor school visitors, monitors will be installed.

College courses: Two new college courses, Spanish and Environmental Science, will be offered to students by Syracuse University through ECS teachers who will be trained on the curriculum.

New phone system: “Our system could be rated as one of the oldest in all of Western New York. Before it crashes and burns, we thought, let’s replace it,” said Ward. The new CISCO phone system will include caller ID on all phones, voicemail through the Internet and overall improved communication.

Science kits: While ECS had provided this service to students themselves for the past five years, they plan to begin offering this BOCES service again this year.

Third grade teacher: Due to an increased second grade class size, the elementary school will be hiring an additional third grade teacher in order to maintain small class sizes.

“The second grade class has about 50, so our thought is that should be three sections,” said Ward of the district’s commitment to small class sizes. “That’s certainly been one of the strong suits of the school system. It’s one of the things I hope you can maintain because I think it does make a difference. Those small numbers make a difference.”

Two leased buses: This budget item will be offered to voters as a proposition, not to exceed $32,000, and comes as the district makes an effort to ensure that none of the buses are more than five years old.

Reduction of BOCES Tech staff: Due to the hiring of Joe Schultz in the school IT department, the district will save more than $22,000.

Cutting distance learning: Costs for the BOCES program total more than $41,000 annually and the board feels that there are several other, more economical ways to provide these services to students.

“There’s a lot of other ways to get classes. I know with Bob’s leadership, and Connie Poulin’s, they will continue to find ways to get those kinds of opportunities. I think it will be a good decision and I think we will use our money more judiciously,” said Ward.

Building and grounds repairs: The elementary school is in need of repairs to steps at the northeast entrance to the building, as well as a new roof over the entrance. In addition, three classrooms in the lower level of the high school will be remodeled and subsequently leased to CA BOCES for the expansion of their Big Picture Program.

According to Ward and Kilby, the budget increases are due to lack of state aid and new tax monies and an effort to prevent dipping into reserves, which the district was forced to do in years past.

“Last year, new tax money we got was $8,300 and an $8,900 increase in state aid. You cannot run this school district on a $17,000 increase of money. In 2015-16 we had to use about $300,000 in reserves because we continue to not get state aid and the Tax Cap restricts how much you can raise taxes,” Ward said. “We received the lowest amount of state aid in western New York.”

Ward went on to say that he believes the proposed budget for next school year will put the school in a position to be able to continue to meet the high standards the district expects.

“We present this plan because we think the community wants the high standard educational system that we have, and in order to maintain it this year we think that we have to go above the Tax Cap. This should help give the district the funds they need to move forward,” Ward said.

For more detailed information outlining the fiscal summaries and estimated expenditures, voters should refer to the May 2017 Ellicottville District Newsletter, available electronically on the school’s website.

In addition to the budget outlines, Tuesday’s meeting also gave Board candidates Leonard Zlockie and Dr. Erin Cornelius, who seek an open seat, an opportunity to introduce themselves and appeal to voters.

Zlockie, the father of two ECS graduates, is running for re-election for a second term on the Board. He encouraged voters to think about continuity as the district approaches Ward’s retirement.

“It’s all about choices. I chose to move my family here to this district, I chose to run for this board, and I would like to be chosen to stay on this board,” Zlockie said.

Zlockie’s opponent is Dr. Erin Cornelius, a licensed psychologist in private practice in Orchard Park who has two young sons, one currently in the Ellicottville school system.

“I have a broad range of experience teaching students of all ages,” Cornelius said. “I think I can bring a unique background to the board.”

The budget vote and board member election will be held Tuesday from 1 to 8 p.m. in the elementary foyer.

During voting hours, the school will be holding a hot dog sale to benefit the Class of 2020 from noon until sold out. The cost is $4 a person, which includes a hot dog, chips, drink and a dessert.

The next regular ECS Board of Education Meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 16 at 8 p.m. in the high school library, following the budget vote and board member election.