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Norwood-Norfolk officials still chipping away at 2014-15 budget gap

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NORFOLK - Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials continue to chip away at the gap between the expenses and revenues in their 2014-15, and they’re currently looking at a deficit of about $700,000.

Superintendent James M. Cruikshank told board of education members during a Tuesday night budget work session that they had a gap of nearly $1.9 million, but are looking at using just under $1.2 million in reserves.

“That will leave about $700,000,” he said. “We still have a ways to go.”

It’s been a process to get it down to that level, and there will be more cuts along the way, Mr. Cruikshank said.

At this point, he said, the reductions they’re looking at have little or no impact on program.

“We found partial reductions in personnel and some extracurricular for the potential of a $94,000 reduction. It comes from different parts and different places. There is some possibility of equipment and supplies on a life cycle possibly being put off for another year,” Mr. Cruikshank said, noting that would make two years that equipment and supplies have gone beyond their life cycle.

“We have some possible reductions that won’t impact (programs). They will affect scheduling, but not programs,” he said.

The use of reserves will help, but it won’t solve all the financial ills, according to the superintendent, who said they put the district in “a less tenuous position, but it will still result in some strategic reductions. We’re fortunate we’re able to have a conversation about reserves. I do know some districts can no longer have that conversation. It’s not an option,” he said.

The $1.9 million gap prior to using reserves includes the addition of two elementary teachers and the restoration of two junior varsity sports. A previous budget before adding the teachers and sports in showed a difference of $1.8 million between projected revenues and expenditures.

The addition of two teachers was at the request of four elementary teachers who had appeared before the board earlier this month to share their concerns about class sizes next year in their current configuration.

There are currently three sections of fourth-grade classes with 28, 27 and 26 students. Without adding another section, those numbers would jump to 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.

Board members also opted to bring two junior varsity sports back into the district as part of the 2014-15 spending plan. At the recommendation of Athletic Coordinator Paul Durant, the district is considering fielding junior varsity girls’ soccer and girls’ basketball because of the number of interested students.

One of Mr. Cruikshank’s concerns over the budget season has been how the Gap Elimination Adjustment has affected the district’s aid.

“Up to this point, the last four years it’s just under $4,000 per student less in state aid that we’ve received,” he said. “I’ve been going after that pretty hard... especially when the governor is projecting a $12 billion surplus.”

There was still “meat” in the governor’s proposal, he said, but that money has not been allocated.

“It’s important to talk to elected officials. Everybody will be fighting over that,” he said.

At Norwood-Norfolk, district officials created an “advocacy tool kit,” consisting of pre-written letters to elected officials that represent the area, asking them to support removing the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

“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 short coming from state aid,” the letters note.

Mr. Cruikshank said he has received word from Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie’s office that they have received some letters, as has Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell.

“I feel there is some pressure being placed on elected officials from local constituents, which is what we need. I see the advocacy tool kit we have on-line starting to have an impact,” he said.

For now, though, district officials will continue to work with the numbers they have from the state.

“We’ll go through and look at individual line items and come back with a few options for you to consider,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

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