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Norwood-Norfolk Board of Education approves $20.6 million budget

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NORFOLK - Norwood-Norfolk Central School’s Board of Education has unanimously approved the district’s $20.6 million spending plan for 2014-15.

The budget represents a 1.75 percent increase over the district’s $20.3 million budget and carries a 0.49 percent tax levy increase, which would raise $29,908. A 1 percent increase in the tax levy equals $61,175.

The current tax rate is $30.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for property owners in the town of Norfolk and $24.92 per $1,000 for town of Potsdam residents.

District officials whittled away at a spending plan that initially had a $632,000 gap and included the elimination of eight full-time equivalent teachers, including a half-time science teacher, half-time English language arts teacher, half-time social studies teacher, half-time math teacher and three teaching assistants. That move would have saved $498,000.

But the potential reductions in teaching assistants brought standing room only crowds of community members, parents, teachers and graduates to recent board of education meetings to share their concerns about the impact it would have on students. Many said the teaching assistants provided not only academic support, but also personal support for students, and some graduates said they would not have received their diplomas without that assistance.

District officials had been basing projected cuts on the state aid proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

But, when the final state budget was passed, they received their aid for next year had increased $13,038,643, which represented a $712,628 increase over the $12,626,089 Gov. Cuomo had proposed for the district. That’s an increase of $535,627 over what they received in 2013-14 and enough to pare their deficit down to about $72,500.

The final version of the budget calls for the reduction of a half-time business teacher and half-time cleaner, with no other personnel cuts.

District officials had also looked at extracurricular activities for potential reductions, and Superintendent James M. Cruikshank had recommended cuts and modifications to eliminate some stipends. The Travel Club was on the final list of cuts, as was a high school Science Club. The high school Student Council will continue, but with one advisor stipend instead of two.

Mr. Cruikshank had also recommended that one of the two assistant coach stipends for boys’ and girls’ spring track teams be eliminated, and the remaining assistant coach work with both teams.

In addition to making those changes, the budget calls for the addition of fourth- and fifth-grade teachers to keep classroom sizes under 25 students each. Some elementary teachers had shared their concerns with board members that leaving fourth grade with its current three sections would mean two sections of 32 students each and one section of 33 students next year.

By adding the fourth section, those numbers will be reduced to two sections of 24 students each and two sections of 25 students each.

Responding to a large number of anticipated participants, district officials also included the addition of junior varsity girls’ soccer and girls’ basketball in their budget. Those sports will cost the district $11,970.

A budget hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 13 in the district’s board room, and residents will cast their votes on May 20.

Voters will also be filling three school board seats during the election. Those are currently held by David C. Flint, Karl J. Fetter and Jonathan L. Hunkins.

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