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Canton district receives more money, but still faces large shortfall

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CANTON — The good news is Canton Central School District has been earmarked for $304,389 more in state aid than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed earlier this year in his state budget.

The bad news is Superintendent William A. Gregory still is anticipating the district will face a $2.3 million shortfall in its 2013-14 budget.

That will mean tough decisions ahead for school board members, who meet again April 11.

Reducing bus transportation for students who live within the village is among the options.

“We will have to make this shortfall up through some combination of our fund balance, reduction in program and staffing and an increase in taxes,” Mr. Gregory said in an email.

“I think we are all disappointed in the level of aid allocated to the district given the disproportionate gap elimination adjustments that have been levied upon us for several years now and the deep cuts in programming and staff we have already experienced.”

Over the past five years, Canton Central has cut about 50 positions through layoffs and retirements. New state aid figures released last week show the district’s overall state aid increasing to $14,581,956, up from the $14,277,567 the governor proposed.

The greatest shift came from a $260,480 reduction in the gap elimination adjustment. Instead of taking $1,809,308 from the district for the GEA, the state will take $1,548,828. The gap elimination was imposed by New York three years ago to help the state reduce its own budget deficit.

Mr. Gregory said the projected $2.3 million shortfall is close to the $2.4 million gap projected in January, even though more revenue has come in.

“We have more precise numbers with regard to projected revenues and projected expenditures than when we began the budget discussion several months ago,” he said.

The district was unsuccessful at persuading the state to reclassify it as a high-needs district rather than an average-needs district; the change would have generated an extra $900,000.

However, Mr. Gregory said he is hopeful the change will be made for the 2014-15 budget, when updated poverty rates are supposed to be used.

The district’s draft $24,638,124 budget represents a 5.9 percent increase over this year’s $24,638,124 spending plan.

A review of the preliminary budget shows the major cost increases continue to be health insurance and other benefits, and employee salaries.

Salaries for teaching faculty are projected to increase by $134,220, from this year’s $4,317,496 to next year’s $4,451,716.

Health insurance benefits for active and retired employees are expected to increase by $579,553, from $4.85 million this year to $5.43 million next year.

Excluding transportation costs, the district’s athletic budget is scheduled to increase by 2.19 percent, from $280,353 to $286,501.

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