Hamburg Superintendent Mike Cornell points out that inflated costs — from utility bills, to fuel and even food — is making life a little more complicated in his western New York school district as teachers and school officials continue to provide for students.
"We are buckling up for a year in which we are going to have to sharpen the pencil on some of those other costs to make sure we can spend money on where it really needs to be spent, which is on early literacy, early numerousy and student mental health," he said.
High prices brought on by inflation have affected everyone's wallet at the grocery store and at the gas pump. School districts aren't immune to those problems, and in many cases, are facing even more headwinds from the current economic climate.
They operate transit fleets, administer breakfast and lunch programs and employ workers who are also feeling the pinch of high prices. The problem could make it even more expensive to pay support staff as a result as they push for higher wages to contend with the extra costs they're paying too, Cornell said.
"We had a tight labor market, which obviously has caused us to have some difficulty attracting some bus drivers, maintenance folks, clerical folks," he said. "You can do those jobs anywhere and there are a lot of parts of the economy where people are paying a premium."
Schools in New York have received billions of dollars in additional state aid in recent years. But the continued flow of money from the state is not necessarily a guarantee. Bob Lowry of the New York Council of School Superintendents believes the cloud of an economic downturn is a concern.
New York has capped increases on school taxes over the last decade in order to control some of the highest property taxes in the country. But that has also had the effect of limiting another revenue source for schools.
"We do have to be concerned about what's the continued outlook for the state and the potential threat of a recession," he said.
Many school districts were able to lock prices in place earlier this year by contracting early. But Association School Business Officials Executive Director Brian Chechniki said even basic expenses for districts can easily become a burden.
"For a lot of districts, it's a huge expense in transporting students for 180 days out of the year and they feel the impact of fuel prices in the way we do as consumers," he said.
If inflation persists, school districts will have to get creative in finding solutions to high costs.
"There's always talk about shared services and other avenues for that, but ultimately that's going to be a very locally based decision, district to district, on how to address these concerns," Chechniki said.