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NNCS details latest budget numbers during community forum

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NORFOLK - After adding in two elementary teachers and restoring two junior varsity sports, Norwood-Norfolk Central School’s budget gap in their 2014-15 proposal now sits at nearly $1.9 million, according to Superintendent James M. Cruikshank.

The $1,893,954 gap is up from a second budget draft presented to board of education members last week that showed a difference of $1,814,762 between projected revenue and expenditures.

As of this week, their current numbers show a projected revenue of $18,597,496, while their projected expenditure budget is $20,491,450.

“We didn’t see a huge increase in our gap (after adding in two teachers and two JV teams),” Mr. Cruikshank said during a community budget forum Tuesday evening.

But it’s still a significant gap that will need to be addressed, he said.

“At this point there’s three things you can do,” Mr. Cruikshank told a crowd that included community members, educators and board of education members.

Among their options, he said, is to reduce district spending. But that would likely mean more personnel reductions on top of the those that have already been made in the past few years, he said.

Changes will have to be made, whether it’s to staffing or programming, the superintendent said. But, he noted, they had already been hit hard with staff cuts since 2010.

Their reductions since 2010 include four playground monitors, two study hall monitors, one teacher clerical, two-and-a-half cleaners, one cook/manager, three food service workers, one BOCES counselor, one business office clerical, one librarian, one facilities manager, one food service manager, four teacher assistants, one bus driver and 12 teachers from the across the board, including math, science, technology, ELA, music, social, physical education, special education and adaptive physical education.

“We’ve already gone through 23 people,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

They’ve also lost junior varsity sports, K through six summer school and their summer recreation program.

They could also look at increasing the tax levy to close the gap, according to the superintendent. Their current tax levy limit is $6,148,490, which equates to a .51 percent increase over their 2013-14 tax levy. That translates to $31,038, Mr. Cruikshank said.

“When we do the calculations, we come out well below 2 percent. Right now I have not had any discussions as to where that tax cap should, would or could end up,” he said.

Their third option is to dig into their reserves and fund balance, he said.

Mr. Cruikshank said he’s hopeful elected officials will be able to secure more funding for school districts beyond what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed in his budget.

“I know there’s more pressure on state politicians than we’ve seen in years,” he said.

“Right now we only have the governor’s proposal. Hopefully it’s not the end proposal,” he added.

Pre-written letters to Gov. Cuomo and several other local elected officials were available to those who attended the community forum. They needed only to be signed and put in an envelope.

In the letter, school officials are asking representatives to remove the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which Mr. Cruikshank said has translated to a loss of nearly $4,000 per student over the past four years.

“That’s a lot of ground to make up,” he said.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment has caused undue financial burden on the district, and that has translated into the possibility of students losing classes “that may cause them to lose their constitutional right to a basic education and may not allow them to graduate due to the elimination of required electives,” according to the letter.

“The cut in state aid has been too deep and too fast for districts to be able to adjust. The loss of $4 million over four budget cycles to a district that survives on a budget of just $20 million is devastating. With over 60 percent of our budget coming from state aid, this loss has resulted in the reduction of 23 positions. We have depended on our reserves and fund balance in combination with these reductions to balance this shortcoming from state aid,” the letter says.

It continues, “Please help save our school by removing the Gap Elimination Adjustment immediately. Anything that you can do to aid Norwood-Norfolk through this crisis will be greatly appreciated. Our district needs your support.”

Mr. Cruikshank encouraged those in attendance to send letters to their elected representatives. In the meantime, the district plans to have a budget update during their regular board of education meeting on Tuesday, followed by an administrative council budget meeting on Feb. 24, a board of education budget work session on Feb. 25, another administrative council budget meeting on March 10 and a board of education budget work session on March 11.

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