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Sat., Oct. 3
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Pay freeze suggested at Canton meeting


CANTON — To help save jobs and programs, a Canton Central School board member suggested that school district employees accept a pay freeze next year and also contribute toward their own health insurance premiums.

Phillip J. Burnett Sr. said in his opinion, the district cannot rely on state officials to solve the district’s financial shortfalls and should use a combination of steps to make ends meet.

“We can no longer kick the can down the road,” Mr. Burnett said during Thursday evening’s board meeting. “The future of meaningful increased state aid or changes in the aid formula is several years away at best.”

He said other measures to offset the district’s projected $2.47 million shortfall should include a modest tax increase, budget line item cost cuts, fiscally prudent use of the fund balance and a minimum number of cuts to programs and staff.

“This will get us through the short term while sharing the pain with all stakeholders and provide a level of education that while not optimal, will prepare our students for their future,” Mr. Burnett said in a prepared statement he read to fellow board members.

Only Canton’s administrators and cafeteria workers contribute toward their health insurance premiums, with those 25 employees each chipping in 10 percent. The remaining 195 employees, including members of the Canton Central Teachers Association, do not contribute to their premiums.

Canton Central is the only remaining St. Lawrence County school district that does not require its teachers to contribute to health insurance premiums. Next year, those expenses are expected to increase by 9 percent, to $440,485.

Collecting a 10 percent contribution from all district employees would generate an extra $250,000 in revenue next school year, according to data presented by School Superintendent William A. Gregory.

School board member Shannon D. Mattice said during her discussions with community members who are concerned about the budget, the topic of health insurance contributions frequently comes up.

“I don’t think we’re going to get a lot of relief from the state,” Mrs. Mattice said.

Joining the discussion, board member John F. Conklin said the days of relying on Albany appear to be over and Canton can’t ignore the possibility of merging with another school district.

“Population wise, we aren’t getting any bigger. If we’re going to maintain the level of opportunity we’re providing, we have to find more efficient ways of operating,” Mr. Conklin said.

A second community forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday to get input from the public about next year’s budget. That session is in the high school library.

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