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Norwood-Norfolk officials still waiting for word on state aid

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NORFOLK - While Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials say they’re in contact with elected officials, they’re still not sure how much state aid they can expect once the state budget is passed.

Until then, they’re encouraging residents to continue writing letters to their elected officials, asking for the elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the restoration of Foundation Aid. Board members passed a resolution this week recommending the immediate elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

“The people that have control over that are not sitting in this room,” board of education President Jon Hazen told a standing room only crowd during this week’s board meeting. He suggested, as he had last week, they visit the district’s website and print out copies of pre-written letters to elected officials. The “Advocacy Toolkit” is located at www.nncsk12.org.

“We’re waiting not so patiently for the budget from the state. That’s the final determining factor (in the budget). It’s not too late to use the Advocacy Toolkit or compose your own letter. Urge them to restore education funding to what at least it was in 2008,” Mr. Hazen said.

At this point, district officials are planning to use $1.4 million from their reserves and fund balance. But even then, they’re still looking at a gap of about $632,000, according to Business Manager Lisa M. Mitras.

Superintendent James M. Cruikshank said they were still exploring different ways to whittle down that gap. They have proposed a number of suggestions and among them is the elimination of eight full-time equivalent positions, which includes core teachers, support staff and academic intervention services. That move would save $498,000.

Most recently, he said, they’re compiling information on student participation numbers in extracurricular activities, as well as the ratio of students to coaches on the district’s sports teams.

“Ms. Mitras and I have been doing investigative work. The political work is still going on,” he said.

As of this week in Albany, Mr. Cruikshank said, the Assembly had proposed restoring some school aid, but it wasn’t a full restoration.

“In the Senate, it was not what we were expecting,” he said.

As a result, representatives from every school district in the state made a “concentrated effort to call senators” to share their concerns, according to the superintendent.

Mr. Cruikshank said he had spoken with officials in the offices of Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome. He said he was told there was “a lot of work ahead.”

He also received a call from Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, who asked for more information on the district that she didn’t have readily available.

“She said, ‘Give me this information because I’m sitting with the speaker of the house,’” Mr. Cruikshank said, calling her “a champion of education. Ms. Mitras and I are working to get the information to her,” he said.

Board of education members have been meeting on a nearly weekly basis, whether for their regular board sessions or budget work sessions. But they’ll take a break next week because Mr. Cruikshank said he didn’t think he would have any new information for them.

Instead, he said, they could wait until after the state budget passed, which is supposed to occur by April 1, so they would have concrete numbers to plug into their budget.

“I’m afraid to schedule a meeting for March 25 and not know again where we stand. Everybody I’ve talked to in Albany has said there will be more money coming,” he said.

Board members will meet again on April 1 to review the latest numbers and get an update on the gap the district is facing in their 2014-15 budget. They may approve their budget during an April 8 session.

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