The near future looks promising for the Erie School District says the financial administrator assigned to Erie’s Public Schools. But, long-term, there are still a lot of challenges.
Financial Administrator Charles Zoby says the state wants to make sure the district can void another crisis. Now, he’s in charge of creating a plan.
Emerging from a financial crisis, the challenges for Erie’s Public Schools are not over. But, Zoby says, “I’m here to help work with the district to help it get to where it wants to go.”
Governor Tom Wolf appointed Zogby to the Erie School District in March. It was part of the deal, after the state approved $14 million more each year for the district. Zogby, now, is responsible for developing a five-year financial plan.
He says, “For this year, the coming year, things look fairly good financially. I think it’s really more the out-years, because even as we’re sitting here, expenses are going to grow.”
Expenses, such as raises, pensions, and medical benefits are rising faster than revenue. “So, it’s really in the out-years that we really have our work cut out for us in terms of making the ends meet.”
The 11,500 student district is also facing declining enrollment as students head to charter schools or other districts. “It’s not just about sort of preserving, maintaining the status quo,” Zogby says, “but how do we make progress academically?”
As he begins the work of creating a financial plan with the district, administrators and members of the community are working together to address the other issues with a Strategic Plan. One of the goals is 100-percent graduation rate.
Superintendent Brian Polito says, “And so, we’re meeting the students where they are and providing them different opportunities to get a diploma.”
Polito says improvements that have been identified in the Strategic Plan process will be prioritized in the financial plan. “Charle’s background as both the education and budget secretary is helpful because he understands that this is not all about finances. And we need to, as we work through this process, think about the kids and improving student achievement.”
The planning team will finalize the Strategic Plan on Monday before taking it to the school board.
As for the financial plan, Zogby hopes to have that completed by the end of June.