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Kids First group urges more fund balance use to save MCS positions

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MASSENA — Residents who attended a meeting Monday night to share their concern over cuts in the 2013-14 Massena Central School budget say the district should spend more of its fund balance to preserve programs for students.

They said they fear students will suffer from the cuts as opportunities are limited and class sizes increased. Global Studies II, for instance, would have more than 30 students per class, they said.

“My concern is for the students right now,” Erin Covell said.

The proposed $46.8 million spending plan allocates $3.1 million in fund balance, and district officials say that at that rate, unrestricted reserves will be exhausted by 2016-17. The district used $4.1 million in reserve funds to balance the 2012-13 budget.

In addition to spending a chunk of the fund balance, the 2013-14 budget calls for eliminating 29.25 full-time-equivalent positions, to save approximately $1.77 million. Those cuts will mean the loss of the Delta School of Choice, formerly the Alternative Education School.

In addition, three positions are being eliminated through attrition or retirement; 1.5 positions are being replaced with a lower salary; two positions will be transferred to the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services; approximately $114,000 of stipends will be eliminated, and about $274,000 in savings will be realized through the elimination of programs such as Learn to Lead, the after-school 3-5 Recovery Plan and the high school’s Educational Support Center.

With the loss of the Delta School of Choice and the elimination of programs such as the 3-5 Recovery Plan, those at Monday’s meeting suggested, more students who need the help would not be able to adequately receive it.

“All of those students will be in those classrooms without enough support,” Ms. Covell said.

Using more of the fund balance would eliminate some of those problems, the residents said.

“The issue is, we’ve heard we have a larger fund balance than anyone around,” Randy L. Freiman said. “They’re choosing not to use all of it.”

“I think if we can really dig into it, there’s a lot more in the fund balance than is being reported,” meeting organizer Robin M. Wolpin said.

As part of its effort, the group plans to begin a petition asking the board to use more of the fund balance. One site where a petition will be available to sign is Boutot Auto Sales, East Orvis Street.

The members said they also plan to vote yes on the budget while promoting the use of more fund reserves. Superintendent Roger B. Clough II has warned that if the budget fails, the school board has three options: to put the same budget up for revote, put an amended budget up for revote or go directly to a contingency budget.

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