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Ogdensburg School Board set to close Sherman in June, staff cuts likely

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The Ogdensburg City School may be forced to cut positions and programs in the face of a state aid allocation that doesn’t keep pace with the district’s increasing operating costs.

The Board of Education, at Monday’s meeting, also voted unanimously to close Sherman Elementary School one year ahead of schedule, saving an estimated $150,000. Sherman will be closed June 30.

By the end of the 2012-2013 school year Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey said roughly 60 full-time positions at the district will have been lost since 2007 due to limited funding.

“You simply can’t keep on doing that and have a viable institution,” Mr. Vernsey said.

In his 2013 executive budget proposal Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed an increase in state aid of $225,996 for Ogdensburg. Along with expected tax revenue of $241,922 and $1.4 million in appropriated fund balance, the school is still looking at a budget gap of $2.5 million in the 2013-2014 budget.

Mr. Vernsey approached the Board of Education with a budget report that recommended eliminating nine positions, mostly through attrition, and closing Sherman Elementary School. School principals have also been asked to keep their budgets flat from last year, and several thousand dollars have been cut out of the middle and high school supplies budgets.

“That still means we have $1.5 million to go,” Mr. Vernsey said, noting the budget gap that remains.

The only thing left, Mr. Vernsey said, is to cut positions and programs. “There is nowhere else to go.”

“Take $1.5 million and divide it by $65,000 [the average teacher’s salary] and that’ll give an indication of how many positions we have to cut,” Mr. Vernsey said. That adds up to roughly 23 positions.

Mr. Vernsey noted that cutting staff also means increasing class sizes.

Mr. Vernsey said the only ways for Ogdensburg to move forward is for the state to give more aid, by applying more fund balance, to utilize the state’s stable rate pension contribution option or ask the community to override the two percent property tax cap.

Board Member Betty J. Mallott said she believes Ogdensburg should be looking to merge with neighboring districts in an effort to save money and provide a solid education.

Mr. Vernsey said the district is open to mergers or similar options, a sentiment that President of the Board Frederic P. Bean has echoed in recent months.

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