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St. Lawrence Central to adopt budget on Wednesday

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BRASHER FALLS - In order to cut a budget gap of roughly $750,000 the St. Lawrence Central School District Board of Education is being faced with some tough decisions that include cuts to music, art, science, physical education and more.

While some of the specific cuts were not detailed at Monday night’s budget meeting, positions mentioned included one in the science department through attrition, a cut in the music department through attrition and a layoff in the art department. A guidance counselor position is also expected to be lost, although the details of that cut were not specified.

Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. said the board was presented with a list of 23 potential cuts.

“We believe 10 of those cuts will be necessary,” Mr. Vigliotti said, adding the cuts are spread throughout the district including the food service department and non-instructional positions.

According to previous reports, the 10 cuts will be seven teachers, a cook, a teaching assistant and a teacher’s aide.

Referring to the potential science cut, Mr. Vigliotti said, “We have two openings. Two people are retiring and we will rehire one of them.

Mr. Vigliotti said that position is likely to be filled through the district’s callback list, meaning a teacher previously laid off by the district could return.

“No one would lose their job, but a position will be cut,” he said.

After board of education member Jonathan Burnett voiced concerns over the potential impacts of losing a music teacher, Mr. Vigliotti said he could look into bringing in a half-time music teacher that would be hired through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

“One of the things the board might want to consider is adding a half-time position through BOCES,” he said. “I can get some information and I’ll present that on Wednesday.”

Looking through her copy of Mr. Vigliotti’s proposal, which has yet to be made public, board of education member Bethany St. Hilaire suggested possibly eliminating French, something that Mr. Vigliotti said would be possible, but not easy.

“I know that the majority of kids take Spanish. Do we need to offer French here?” she asked.

Noting that roughly 25 percent of the district’s foreign language students take French, Mr. Vigliotti said the least senior teacher in the languages other than English department is a Spanish teacher.

“Could we go down to 2.5? The answer would be yes, but there would be some things we would have to take care off,” he said explaining a half-time teacher would be needed to finish French programs for the students currently taking French.

Noting the district’s close proximity to the Quebec and the Canadian border, board of education member Patricia Gengo said she doesn’t want to see the district lose its French program.

“With our proximity to the border that could be a problem,” she said.

Board of education member Rhonda Shorette-Peets said that while the district may be located close to Canada, several other districts in the area are not offering French programs either.

“Very few districts offer French anymore,” she said. “And I’m talking local.”

Ms. St. Hilaire also asked Mr. Vigliotti to consider adding a half-time art teacher to the proposal.

“I could look at that for you if you want,” he said.

Mr. Burnett said he would like to see the district use more money from its fund balance to pay for the music position through BOCES and a half-time art teacher.

“I would like to dip further into the fund balance,” he said. “I’m not saying lets eliminate something else in place of these, I’m saying let’s dip into the fund balance.

The district is currently planning to use $450,000 in fund balance, a figure that Mr. Vigliotti said will leave them with approximately $2.7 remaining in fund balance next year.

Mr. Vigliotti said he was uncomfortable using additional fund balance and board of education member James Lattimer agreed.

“I think exploring a music position with BOCES is a good idea, but I can’t see us dipping further into the fund balance,” Mr. Lattimer said.

Mr. Vigliotti said he understood Mr. Burnett’s concerns, but added that other than cutting positions, there isn’t much else the district could cut.

“It’s a matter of our ability to pay,” he said. “The board made a conscious decision to not go over the tax cap and I agree with that, but what else are we going to cut?”

Ms. Shorette-Peets suggested using more distance learning offerings and even sharing some of their courses with other schools through distance learning, something she said would maybe lead BOCES to pick up a portion of that teacher’s salary and benefits.

“That might help us save a position,” she said.

Ms. St. Hilaire voiced frustration with another tough budget year for the district.

“Our government doesn’t even know we’re here,” she said.

Mr. Vigliotti said he had been to Albany twice and he was planning a third trip to Albany for later in the year, once the budget is complete.

“I’ve visited them twice already and I’ll be visiting them again when this is over, so I can show them the aftermath and ask, ‘What about our kids?’”

Board members are expected to approve the spending plan during their regular meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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