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Voters weigh-in on MW’s 2013-2014 Budget

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MADRID – Residents attending a meeting Saturday to discuss financial pressures said they would prefer the Madrid-Waddington Central School District do more to share services before considering merging or consolidating with another district.

Thirty-nine district voters met with Madrid-Waddington Central School board members and administrators early Saturday to tackle issues facing the district’s 2013-2014 budget.

Split into six groups, voters discussed a range of topics, including whether they would support an increase in the tax levy.

“I have not been unhappy with my taxes here,” said Kelly J. Dugan, mother of a 10th-grader. “If it meant saving some services and keeping the school open, I would support raising it a little.”

The district has had a slew of stringent budget cuts in the last five years. Board members have eliminated several junior varsity athletic programs, the driver’s education program, a counselor and an elementary teacher, to name a few.

“We are running out of places to cut,” Superintendent Lynn M. Roy said.

A majority of the cuts have been attributed to a decrease in state aid.

More than half of the school’s revenue comes from the state. District officials have estimated that aid has decreased from $7,776,625 in 2008-2009 to $7,190,681 in 2012-2013, a drop of almost $585,944.

Mrs. Roy said without an increase in funding, the district could face educational insolvency in 4.3 years.

“That’s why we, the board, are looking for your input to help us figure out what will be acceptable in terms of cuts and increases in taxes,” Mrs. Roy told the crowd.

During the discussion, all six groups said they would support an increase in shared services with the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services and other districts before considering regionalization, merging with annexation or a merger with centralization.

But not everyone agreed that regionalization as a last result would devastate students the district.

Peggy Morrill, who has three children in the district and serves as a first-grade teacher at Potsdam Elementary School, said that regionalization could be a good thing.

“It could give students more course options and opportunities to participate in extracurriculars,” she said. “Sometimes without those extracurriculars students don’t look forward to going to school.”

The presentation was facilitated by BOCES Communications Specialist Molly M. Gushea, who said BOCES has facilitated at least five other similar roundtable discussions at nearby districts in Brasher Falls, Morristown, Potsdam, Norwood-Norfolk, and Canton.

“The number-one thing is that gives the community a voice in how the district educates its students,” Ms. Gushea said. “It is also an opportunity for board members to educate voters on the different issues they face.”

Notes from the meeting will be compiled and distributed to the participants as well as to board members, Ms. Gushea said.

“I think it went very well overall,” Mrs. Roy said. “All our participants were very engaged, and we gained some very valuable information, which the board members will consider when we begin discussing the budget in April.”

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