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St. Lawrence Central makes Rutgers list of top underfunded schools in state


BRASHER FALLS - The St. Lawrence Central School District has found itself on a list of 50 districts in New York state with the largest formula funding shortfalls per pupil in 2013-14.

The list is contained in a 64-page report by Professor Bruce D. Baker frmo the Department of Educational Theory, Policy and Administration, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University. It’s an update of a report that had previously been compiled, according to St. Lawrence Central School District Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr.

St. Lawrence Central is ranked 21 on a list that also includes Indian River in Jefferson County. The Brasher Falls school is the only school from St. Lawrence County included on the list.

“On page 63 and 64 it shows the districts with the largest formula funding shortfalls per pupil. There’s Brasher Falls nestled right in there about 20th,” Mr. Vigliotti told board of education members Wednesday. “Amazing, none of our St. Lawrence or Lewis county schools are on there.”

It’s not the first time the school has been included in such a report, Mr. Vigliotti said. Similar reports had been done in the past five years by the Statewide School Finance Consortium, in which St. Lawrence Central was ranked around 22nd.

According to their website, the Statewide School Finance Consortium is an organization of more than 400 New York state public school districts whose mission is to bring equity to the distribution of New York state educational aid. SSFC membership is largely comprised of school districts from average and low-wealth communities that receive a disproportionate share of state funding in comparison to high-wealth regions of New York, the website says.

In another study done by Syracuse University, St. Lawrence Central was ranked about 27th or 28th, Mr. Vigliotti said.

But that hasn’t swayed lawmakers in Albany from realizing the plight faced by the district, he said.

“The Assembly and Senate dismissed Dr. Timbs’ (Dr. Richard Timbs, SSFC executive director) group as radical. There’s a Syracuse University study that says it. Now there’s a Rutgers study that says it,” he said.

Mr. Vigliotti said he plans to make an appointment with the area’s elected officials in Albany to go and “tell the story of Brasher Falls,” and point out the studies that had been done.

“That’s a better message than all 18 of us (in the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services) trickling into Albany and saying we need money, we need money,” he said.

That visit will come at a time when the district is preparing its 2014-15 spending plan and looking at a $1.8 million gap.

Mr. Vigliotti said that, while the governor’s proposal shows about $1 million more in state aid for the district, that’s not the case. When the Gap Elimination Adjustment and other factors are figured, the actual increase for the district will be in the neighborhood of $400,000 to $450,000.

“Health care alone went up that much,” he said.

The state increase proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would fail to touch other increases the district was facing, such as employee and teacher retirement system contributions, he said. Among their other increases, based on their preliminary numbers, are a nearly $1 million jump in personnel expenses including salaries and fringe benefits, according to the superintendent.

All together, also figuring in other costs such as utilities and debt service, Mr. Vigliotti said they’re looking at an increase in expenses of just over $2 million.

He said they expect to see an increase in some areas such as BOCES based on their spending for those services.

“How much of an increase remains to be seen,” he said.

Mr. Vigliotti said he and Business Manager Karen Locey will continue to work on the numbers, while trying to stay at or under a tax cap of 3.75 percent.

“Hopefully we’d like to be less. We’re certainly going to have to sharpen our pencil. It’s going to be a challenge (without making reductions),” he said.

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