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General Brown faces ‘devastating’ cuts

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DEXTER — The General Brown Central School District could lay off at least 20 staff members as part of its 2013-14 spending plan, according to sources.

No specific information has been released by District Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr., but teachers have posted vague information on social media sites about pending changes and have encouraged residents to attend the Board of Education meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the junior-senior high school, 17643 Cemetery Road.

During a February board meeting, Mr. Vigliotti said the district could face double-digit cuts again, as it has had to eliminate 29 positions over the past couple of years. While board members were presented with budget cut recommendations from principals and other administrators earlier this month at a board meeting, Mr. Vigliotti requested that information be held privately until he has had a chance to speak with staff members about the possibility of position or program changes.

He met with staff members Thursday to inform them of possible layoffs but has yet to release a specific number of layoffs to the media or community members.

General Brown Teachers Association President Melissa Walters said she would not confirm the number of teachers who received notification of potential layoffs because she wanted to “protect her teachers.” She said, however, the number of potential layoffs is “devastating.”

“I’m interested to see if they actually say it on Monday,” she said. “The entire membership is so upset.”

District students are going to be the biggest losers if those potential cuts stick, she said.

“They’re losing program; they’re losing electives and support staff,” she said. “It’s scary for all of us.”

District Business Manager Lisa K. Smith also would not confirm the number of possible layoffs because the board is still developing the 2013-14 budget, she said. The final number won’t be determined until the board approves the spending plan, which must be done next month.

“We don’t know that number yet,” Mrs. Smith said.

She said, however, potential layoffs would affect every subject area and all extracurricular activities could be impacted.

Calls seeking comment from Board President Tasha L. Richards and Vice President Jeffrey West were not returned Friday.

While the teachers want to figure out how to improve the situation, Mrs. Walters said, they also know it is complicated by the district’s fiscal crisis.

“Now we’re trying to figure out how to save our district,” she said. “There’s a much bigger picture here in the community. There seems to be a little bit of a rally going on. General Brown is a family. This General Brown community bleeds yellow and blue. There’s significant Lion pride.”

The office of Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, has received calls from school bus drivers, at least one teacher and a teacher’s aide about the potential reductions, according to Mark A. Pacilio, Mrs. Russell’s chief of staff.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, has also received calls from a handful of people who have been concerned about potential cuts and the district’s fiscal problems, according to Sarah V. Compo, Mrs. Ritchie’s spokeswoman.

General Brown staff members are not the only ones calling Mrs. Russell’s office for help — Mr. Pacilio said district officials have also called. The district faces a shortfall upward of $1.8 million. Although there is a chance the district could receive some of the $203 million in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2013-14 budget for fiscal stabilization of school districts, money is not guaranteed for any district. Mr. Vigliotti encouraged board members earlier this month to continue cutting $1.8 million and trying to rebuild the unappropriated fund balance even if General Brown receives stabilization money.

Three years ago, the district had more than $1 million in that reserve, but the board dipped into it as it faced financial crises.

Ms. Compo said Mrs. Ritchie is waiting for school aid details to be released as part of the state budget in the hope of providing more support to struggling Northern New York schools such as General Brown.

Mrs. Smith said she is waiting for the same information. Once that is released, the district will schedule its next budget advisory meeting.

Information on the district’s 2013-14 spending plan development process is available on its website, www.gblions.org.

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