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Sun., Dec. 21
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Potsdam school district to host forum about budget, other issues

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POTSDAM — Residents of the Potsdam Central School District are invited to a community forum Monday evening at A.A. Kingston Middle School.

“We want to engage the community and get their input on a variety of issues,” said Superintendent Patrick H. Brady, noting the forum will include a presentation on the budget before breaking participants into small groups to let them offer their opinions on two questions.

“We’ll discuss where we are in the budget process based on the governor’s proposal and what we can currently anticipate in state aid, what the major sources of funding are in our budget and the options we have to meet the budget gap while providing a spending plan that can be acceptable to the community,” he said.

Mr. Brady said the questions will then center on what community members think the district’s priorities should be as it works to close the budget gap.

“The questions will center around, with the lack of state funding, there could be some difficult decisions to be made by the district in regards to staffing and programs and the possible reorganization of our grade structure.”

Mr. Brady said the forum is open to anyone but acknowledged that some people were sent invitations.

“It is open to the public, but we did send out a number of invitations because we wanted to be sure to have a wide representation of the community,” he said. “All members of the community are encouraged to attend.

The first question participants will discuss and answer focuses on staffing and programs.

“With underfunding from the state and rising costs, the Potsdam Central School District will continue to face difficult choices as it seeks to maintain a high-quality educational program for students. This will include staffing/program cuts and possible reorganization which are issues currently being discussed by the Board of Education.

As the District considers all options to meet these fiscal challenges, what questions or concerns do you have in relation to the potential impact in the following areas:

a. Increased class sizes

b. Employee job losses and/or reduction in benefits

c. Cuts in athletics and extracurriculars

d. Reduction or loss of programs such as art, music, HS electives

e. Elimination of transportation for after school activities and/or for students who live within a certain distance from the school

f. Reconfiguration of grade levels ex. move Grades 7 & 8 to the high school

g. Other”

The forum’s second question moves beyond programming to focus on other ways the district could save money.

Beyond program changes or reductions, there are other short- and long-term options a school district can take to save educational opportunities for students.

Those decisions tend to develop considerable debate as there can be strong financial and historical implications for the school and community.

“As the District considers all options to meet its fiscal challenges, what questions or concerns do you have in relation to the potential impact in the following areas:

a. Increase the tax levy

b. Use more fund balance to offset cuts or tax levy increases

c. Pursue reforms at the state and local level which will lower costs of employee benefits

d. Work to develop a regional high school with area school districts

e. Seek opportunities to merge with other school districts

f. Pursue the regionalization or contracting out of services such as transportation and food service

g. Other”

Given the fact that tough decisions are likely to be made, Mr. Brady said he would like as much help from the community as possible.

“The financial challenges facing the district have continued,” he said. “It is very likely that we will have to make difficult decisions that will impact the school and community.”

The forum will begin at 7 p.m. Monday with registration starting at 6:30 p.m.

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