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Edwards-Knox board rejects making job cuts, decides to use fund balance

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RUSSELL — Instead of making job cuts, the Edwards-Knox Central School Board of Education agreed Wednesday night to offset a projected 2013-14 budget deficit of nearly $1 million by applying most of the district’s unreserved fund balance to next year’s budget.

About 35 people attended the special budget workshop, many of them clapping when the board decided not to even discuss a list of possible job cuts that included six teaching positions in the high school and an elementary teacher’s job.

Board member Christopher Averill said the board just learned about an accounting error that counted a gap elimination aid reduction of $581,386 as a revenue, which brought about a swing of about $1 million in the district’s revenue in this year’s budget.

He said it would be unfair to respond by eliminating staff.

“We just got this two weeks ago,” Mr. Averill said referring to a list of cuts. “I think we owe it to our staff to wait and consider these next year.”

During an executive session, the board agreed to offer early retirement incentive to two teachers interested in retiring. By not filling those jobs, the district will save an estimated $195,173.

The board spent most of the meeting making minor cuts to various budget items, with cuts totaling $76,171.

Immediately after that process, Mr. Averill recommended the board cover the remaining $617,849 deficit by taking that amount from the $853,535 unreserved fund balance. The district’s total fund balance, including appropriated and unappropriated reserves, totals $3.7 million.

Board President Theresa A. Hogle said she was not in favor of that strategy, but the majority of the board agreed with Mr. Averill.

Elementary Principal Amy L. Lamitie, Canton, warned that unless spending cuts are enacted, Edwards-Knox will end up like Canton Central School, which was forced to cut about 50 jobs over the past three years because of the gap between spending and revenues.

“My children will face class sizes that are very, very large,” Mrs. Lamitie said. “We are most likely on the same path.”

Some of the cuts approved by the board include summer school for grades 5 and 6, sports uniforms to save $3,579, half of the summer agriculture budget to save $1,700 and professional development for a $5,000 savings.

The board agreed to keep the golf team, the marching band, summer band, band instruments and the modified swim team coach.

Students will be asked to pay a portion of the $85 fee charged to take advanced placement exams.

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