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Job cuts in store at Canton Central

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CANTON — The battle for more state aid may be over, but tough budget decisions are just getting started in the Canton Central School District.

The 2012-13 state budget deal reached last week provides Canton with about $222,000 more than was earmarked in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s original budget. But that funding won’t go far in staving off job and program cuts, according to district Superintendent William A. Gregory.

“It’s helpful, but it’s a small portion of what we needed,” Mr. Gregory said. “We’re still going to have to make significant reductions in programs and staffing.”

The district is projecting a $2.47 million shortfall in its 2012-13 budget, and 40 jobs are at stake.

The extra state money includes $172,000 in operating aid and $50,000 in bullet aid from state Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

Recommended cuts will be reviewed at Thursday’s 8 p.m. Board of Education meeting in the high school library. Tentative plans call for using $1 million in reserve funds, but the board may decide to increase that amount to soften job cuts.

School board member Philip J. Burnett Sr. has suggested that all employees consider taking a pay freeze next school year and contribute to their health insurance premiums. At community forums held last month, some Canton residents said premium contributions should be collected to help minimize job and program cuts.

Total expenses for employee salaries are projected to increase by $240,352, including $216,478 for step increases for teachers and teaching assistants.

A pay freeze for all employees would generate an estimated $270,000 in savings, Mr. Gregory said.

Employee benefits, including health insurance and retirement costs, are slated to increase by 7.2 percent, rising by $530,648 from this year’s $7,386,537, to a projected $7,917,185. Mr. Gregory and other administrators, including the three school principals, contribute 10 percent toward their premium expenses. Cafeteria workers also contribute. Mr. Gregory voluntarily offered to keep his salary at $124,300 for the past two years.

The district picks up 100 percent of the premium cost for medical and dental insurance for the majority of its roughly 220 employees. The plan requires workers to make co-pays for their prescriptions and medical visits.

Collecting a 10 percent insurance contribution from all district employees would generate an estimated $250,000 a year in revenue.

Informally, some Canton teachers have said their union has resisted contributing to health insurance because teachers agreed to small salary increases in past years to keep that benefit intact.

“The last couple of contracts, we made significant salary concessions,” said Randall P. Brown, lead negotiator for the Canton Central Teachers Association and a high school math teacher. “Our raises were among the lowest in the area.”

About five years ago, the union accepted the additions of Riders 5 and 6 to its health plan, which required co-pays for prescriptions and medical visits and saved the district thousands of dollars, Mr. Brown said.

He said the union hasn’t ruled out accepting pay freezes or making health contributions.

“We’re not taking anything off the table,” Mr. Brown said Monday. “We’ll consider anything as part of negotiations.”

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