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Brady’s budget plan calls for cutting 12 positions

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POTSDAM - Superintendent Patrick H. Brady outlined a potential budget Thursday night that cuts 12 positions and would save the district nearly $1 million.

The proposal, as presented at the Potsdam Central School District Finance Committee’s last meeting, would maintain the district’s current grade configuration,something that Mr. Brady said he and the district’s other administrators felt was important.

“We can get to these reductions without making a total grade reconfiguration that’s going to impact our middle school program, which is strong,” Mr. Brady said.

His proposal would eliminate one high school teacher from each of the four core subject areas (math, science, social studies and English), as well as a part-time position from the foreign language department. A retiring music teacher and physical education teacher wouldn’t be replaced. Other positions lost through attrition would be two elementary school teachers and a special education teacher. A cafeteria monitor and cashier would also be laid off.

Mr. Brady noted those cuts would total $987,397, and leave the district with a deficit of just over $200,000.

According to the district’s $27.9 million draft budget, which was presented in full for the first time and does not yet include any cuts, the district was looking at a spending increase of $1,136,681 or 4.24 percent.

“We’ve been showing you pieces of this budget, but now you have it all in place,” Mr. Brady said.

While Mr. Brady’s savings plan included two elementary positions lost through attrition, that may be a tough sell with board members, as class sizes would increase dramatically.

“If we cut the other teacher, you’re looking at 27 or 28 in kindergarten or 26 in the first grade,” Mr. Brady said, adding that one of the positions can be cut without a dramatic increase in class sizes.

Elementary Principal Larry B. Jenne also noted that in his opinion the class sizes would be too large if both positions were lost.

“I don’t think we should look at numbers higher than 20 or 21 at the first two grade levels,” he said.

Finance Committee Chairman J. Patrick Turbett said he wasn’t happy cutting positions at the elementary level when the result would be class sizes in the mid-20s, with high school students in smaller classes and a full slate of extracurriculars.

“On a cost per student level, it’s a bargain,” Mr. Turbett said, referring to elementary education.

He then wondered why the elimination of athletic teams hadn’t been proposed.

“It is so important to preserve that that we’re going to keep increasing class sizes?” he asked. “I don’t like to ask those questions, but it’s my belief they need to be raised.”

Mr. Brady said he wondered whether othe community would pick them up if the school cut high school athletics.

“If we decided to cut sports out, is the community going to pick it up?” he asked. “Are we going to be the only school to cut sports?”

Board of education President Christopher C. Cowen again asked to see a list everything the district pays for that is non-mandated.

High school Principal Joann M. Chambers said that should the board receive such a list and elect to make cuts from it it’s important to remember the district must still offer some electives.

She pointed out that the number of credits filled by state mandated courses and the number of credits a student needs to graduate are two different numbers.

“You can say electives are not mandated, but you need some sense of electives,” she said. “Keep that in mind. Electives are mandates too.”

Ms. Chambers also noted that should the district make the cuts proposed this year there would be few new or inexperienced teachers left to cut.

“If we cut any deeper, we’re looking at eight or 10 year veterans,” she said.

Mr. Cowen then pointed out that last year the Morristown Central School District cut a teacher that was a”25 or 26 year veteran.”

“That’s where we’re at,” he said.

Mr. Cowen also suggested the district take a look at its various service contracts, subscriptions and memberships to see if there were any they could live without.

“A lot of that stuff is an insurance policy,” he said. “I’m not going to say we should eliminate all of these things, I’m just saying it’s something we should look at.”

Mr. Cowen wondered if maybe there some “we could go a year without.”

Business Manager Laura Hart said once something is gone the chances of it coming back aren’t very good.

“Once something like that it out, it’s hard to add back in,” she said.

Mr. Cowen then noted that even if those things aren’t cut this year, the board could be having the some discussion next year.

“If it doesn’t get better next year, we’ll be back at this table saying, ‘What else is there to cut?’” he said. “Pretty soon we’ll be sitting here with the lights out and flashlights.”

Mr. Brady agreed to look through those areas of the budget and get back to the committee.

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