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Norwood-Norfolk Central School hosting community budget forum

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NORFOLK - Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials will update the community on their proposed 2014-15 budget during a forum this evening.

The forum, which will be led by Superintendent James M. Cruikshank and Business Manager Lisa M. Mitras, begins at 7 p.m. in the elementary cafeteria. It includes a presentation and time for questions and answers.

Mr. Cruikshank said they’ll be using the most up-to-date budget numbers they have during the forum.

“We do have preliminary information, our revenue from the governor’s proposal, which is not what it will be, but it’s a starting point. We’re hoping our legislators will come through with additional funding,” he said.

If they don’t, Mr. Cruikshank said, the district will have to look at cutting positions and programs.

“We’re at what I would consider a heightened state of concern. The decisions that we may have to make won’t be easy. But if the state aid numbers don’t change from the governor’s proposal, we will be looking at reductions. We have to figure something out when over 60 percent of your funding comes from the state,” he said.

The district’s current budget gap is “in the ballpark of $1.8 million,” according to the superintendent.

“Last year we used a little over a million (dollars) from the fund balance and reserves. Obviously we don’t want to continue using that to pay the bills,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

One of the problems Norwood-Norfolk and other school districts face is covering ever-increasing costs.

“There are a lot of expenditures which are beyond our control. Really, the only way to reduce our budget in an impactful way is in the personnel area, and we certainly don’t want to do this,” he said.

Tonight’s presentation will be an updated version from what school board members heard last Tuesday during a budget workshop. The numbers will show the gap between revenues and expenditures after adding a fourth-grade teacher and reinstating two junior varsity programs at the request of board members.

“The board had a presentation at the last board meeting. It’ll be the next generation of that,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

Board members has heard from four teachers last week, who asked that another fourth-grade teacher be added in 2014-15 because of projected class sizes. Leaving fourth grade with its current three sections would means two sections of 32 students each and one section of 33 students next year. With a fourth section, they would be looking at two sections of 24 students each and two sections of 25 students each.

“We did have some concern with our class sizes on the elementary,” he said.

Because of high numbers, the board was also asked to consider reinstating some JV sports. Initial calculations indicated it would cost, at the most, approximately $41,000 to field six JV teams. Athletic Coordinator Paul Durant, however, recommended that two sports - girls’ soccer and girls’ basketball - be considered because of the number of participants.

“We have a large number of participants in a couple of our sports areas. We’re considering adding in a couple, but not across the board. Those two areas have shown significant participation,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

“Other than that, we are really taking a flat line approach to a lot of our issues. We’re in the people business and people have contracts. Our costs are expanding even though we’re not really adding programming in a significant way,” he said.

During last week’s budget workshop, board members were told that the budget draft showed a gap of $1,814,762. Their current projected revenue budget was $18,597,496, while their projected expenditure budget was $20,412,258, although Mr. Cruikshank said at the time they still had to finalize some numbers.

Their second draft projected $12,319,649 in state and federal aid, $6,148,490 from the tax levy (including the STAR tax exemption) and $129,357 from other miscellaneous revenue.

Their state and federal aid projection was down from the current $12,975,298 because they have projects coming off the books and will no longer receive aid for them.

Those numbers have since been updated for tonight’s presentation.

“We do have some more numbers in from our expenditures. The bull’s-eye is narrowed a bit to actual numbers. We’re still a ways away from having concrete numbers,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The forum will be an opportunity to hear about the latest numbers, and also provide feedback.

“This is a chance for the community to hear where we are in the process. It’s an excellent time to ask questions, share concerns or give feedback. We always have open ears to hear concerns and questions,” he said.

Mr. Cruikshank said they also want to talk about their proposed capital project at a time when the budget is so tight. He said people may want to know why they plan to start a capital project now when the budget is so gloomy.

“They run on different fund streams,” he said.

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