Board seeks to assure residents that school will remain open

WELLSVILLE – Members of the Wellsville Board of Education sought to counter what they called rumors about Garfield Elementary School at Monday evening’s board meeting.

Board President Ed Bauer said there has been renewed talk amongst some village residents that Garfield is to be closed in the near future, even prompting phone calls to his home from concerned constituents.

According to Bauer, such talk has circulated in Wellsville for many years, but he says the stories are as untrue now as they’ve been in the past. He refuted the claims, labeling them as rumors, and emphatically said that Garfield will remain open.

“There’s absolutely no plans – in effect or even talked about – as far as closing Garfield Elementary,” he said. To emphasize the point, Bauer asked building and grounds supervisor Joe Traina for a progress report on a resealing project on the building’s roof. Traina replied that rainy weather had hampered those efforts, but that it would be finished in time for the new school year.

Member Karen Dash reiterated Bauer’s assurances, saying the board prefers the model of neighborhood schools that it employs currently and that Garfield fits well into that model. “It’s going to be there as long as we can have it be there,” she said.

When Dash wondered about how the rumors began and why they’ve been so persistent, Superintendent Richard Bereschik admitted that the fiscal difficulties the district has faced recently could appear to give credence to such stories.

“We were in deficit spending, we made $320,000 in cuts last year,” he said. “Now, with the cooperation of both OAPSE (Ohio Association of Public School Employees) and the Wellsville Local Teachers Association, we were able to get into a consortium with our insurance, which has saved us a considerable amount of money, which keeps us in the black in our five-year forecast.”

Earlier in the meeting, board members had unanimously voted to accept health, dental, life and optional vision coverage premiums with its new carrier, the Portage Area School Consortium. Those rates include health insurance premiums of $1,592.63 per month for a family and $637.05 per month for singles, with dental coverage set at $77.50 per month for a family and $36.96 monthly for singles.

District Treasurer Eva Elliott echoed Bereschik’s statement that joining PASC, in lieu of the previous insurance plan through Anthem, would result in “considerable savings” for the district. Still, the recent sign-up had managed to skew fiscal numbers for June.

Elliott presented a fiscal report for June showing a starting balance of $1,310,028.30, with revenues of $647.586.88 against expenditures of $585,158.84, for an ending balance of $1,372,456.34.

Elliott said the district’s switch was responsible for the month’s budget surplus. “They couldn’t get the invoices to us quick enough,” she said. With health insurance costs shown as paid in June, the general fund’s ending balance would have reflected a $58,000 deficit for the month.