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NNCS $20 million budget adopted, awaits May 20 public vote

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NORFOLK - Now that Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials have adopted their $20.6 million budget, they will await response from the district residents on May 20.

Superintendent James M. Cruikshank broke down key figures of the 2014-2015 spending plan earlier this week, noting that the proposed budget would equal a 1.75 percent increase.

“What we have here are the key points for what the voters are going to be voting on,” he said. “The proposed budget is $20,633,492, which is a 1.75 percent increase. If you remember some of my original presentations on health insurance, retirements - to keep this budget to a 1.75 percent increase as not been an easy task and it’s done with a lot of skill, particularly from (Business Manager Lisa M. Mitras.)”

The projected tax levy for the district is an increase of $29,908, which equates to 0.49 percent. The group plans to use $1,477,211 in reserves and fund balance. That figure would represent an increase of $390,817 over the 2013-2014 budget.

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.

“This is on top of what I call historic financial problems from the state. The additional state aid that we received this year was about $300,000 more than (Governor Andrew Cuomo’s) proposal. However, the Gap Elimination Adjustment is still in effect. Our GEA for this coming school year is $165,633 and that’s money that was promised to us that the governor is withholding to float their budget,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

“So far, in a total of five years, Norwood-Norfolk’s GEA is $3,854,228. That’s less in aid than what was established through the foundation aid formula.”

New York state created a foundation aid formula nearly a decade ago for a more equitable system of funding public schools. Mr. Cruikshank pointed out that for the past eight years, the state has either changed or frozen the formula so they could balance their budget.

“Norwood-Norfolk, just for the foundation aid formula, has been shortchanged $21,070,950 from what was promised by this formula. That equates to $2,633,869 per year,” he said. “So the increase in state aid that we received this year does not overcome the combined - between the GEA and the foundation aid problems - it doesn’t overcome the combined $24,925,178 that the state has kept from us, that they said they would give us.”

An initial spending plan for the school included 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.

The possibility of these cuts brought on much public dissent though during recent board of education meetings. 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 projecting the cuts based on initial numbers proposed by Mr. Cuomo’s state budget. When the final state budget was passed, they received their aid for next year, which had increased to $13,038,643.

“This budget does contain two additional elementary teachers that were requested to keep class sizes below 25. It also includes two JV teams and I placed in writing here where numbers dictate, and this coming year, it looks like the numbers will dictate in girl’s soccer and in girl’s basketball,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

“We have made some reductions that we feel that we can make without loss of programming and that is a half of a business, a half of a cleaner, one assistant coach and some sporadic stipends for extracurriculars “So I just wanted to make sure that we went through this one more time,” he noted.

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.

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