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Two dozen jobs targeted at Canton school

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CANTON — There will be 24 fewer jobs on the payroll next year in the Canton Central School District, if the Board of Education approves a list of budget cuts it reviewed Thursday evening.

Proposed cuts include 12.6 teaching positions, seven teacher assistants, a librarian and the half-time dean of students position.

A bus driver, a custodian, an accounts clerk and a receptionist also are on the cut list recommended by Superintendent William A. Gregory.

The news didn’t sit well with school board member Angelique W. Santimaw, who questioned the wisdom of trimming several teaching jobs while keeping all sports teams intact.

“I suggest looking a little closer at athletics,” Mrs. Santimaw said. “Isn’t there something in there worth another English or math teacher? Maybe someone will step forward to sponsor a sports team. I don’t know how we’re going to watch 24 people walk out the door. We’re sending teachers out the door.”

She said she was particularly concerned about cutting a high school English position from full time to just under half time, and the impact of class sizes on teachers and students. Elementary class sizes would increase from an average of 18 students to 20 to 26 students, while some middle school and high school class sizes could reach close to 30.

Faced with a $2.47 million budget shortfall, Mr. Gregory said the cuts would trim $1.6 million from expenses in his proposed $23,266,223 budget for the 2012-13 school year.

Teacher cuts include one each in kindergarten, first, third, fourth and fifth grades, business, education technology, math, science, social studies, special education, six-tenths of an English position and a Title I teaching job.

Cost cuts also include trimming $30,000 from the district’s athletic budget by eliminating all non-league games, eliminating pay for assistant coaches and reducing security, supply and equipment costs.

Recommendations did not include cutting any sports teams, music programs or extracurriculars such as high school clubs. The budget also preserves prekindergarten.

The proposed budget calls for a 4.69 percent increase in the tax levy, the maximum amount under the state’s tax cap mandate. That increase would generate an additional $359,051 for the district.

Overall, spending would decline by 1.69 percent, representing a $400,767 decrease from this year’s budget. The district also plans to help close the budget gap by using $1,108,000 from its undesignated fund balance and $490,895 from other reserve funds.

Despite the cost cuts, the district faces cost hikes in employee salaries, benefits and health insurance expenses.

Board member Shannon D. Mattice said she’s disappointed that the district’s employee unions, including teachers, have not helped to save jobs by accepting a pay freeze or agreeing to contribute to their health insurance premiums.

She said she could not support increasing school property taxes beyond the tax cap unless concessions were made by employee unions.

“I won’t go over that without some movement on negotiations,” Mrs. Mattice said.

Board member Phillip J. Burnett Sr. agreed.

“The bottom line is I don’t think we can ask taxpayers for more money considering they’re not the ones who put us where we are,” Mr. Burnett said.

Timothy J. Lamitie, a vocal community member, blasted the district’s unions for refusing to make concessions that would help save jobs and programs. Last year, the district cut 18 jobs, including several teachers.

“They’re going to let jobs go again to protect their benefits. It’s a recipe for extinction,” Mr. Lamitie said.

The Canton Central Teachers Association insists it has made significant concessions in its recent contracts.

Mr. Lamitie suggested the district stop negotiations with the union, saying it will only find itself in the same position next year.

“I haven’t seen any systematic change,” Mr. Lamitie said. “This is another Band-Aid over a gaping wound that gets bigger every year.”

The board is scheduled to meet April 16 and again April 19, when members will adopt the budget. Information from Thursday’s meeting, including proposed job cuts, is available on the district’s website: www.ccsdk12.org.

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