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Norwood-Norfolk details latest budget numbers during community forum

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NORFOLK — After adding two elementary teachers and restoring two junior varsity sports, Norwood-Norfolk Central School’s budget gap for 2014-15 stands at nearly $1.9 million, according to Superintendent James M. Cruikshank.

The $1,893,954 gap is up from a second budget draft presented to Board of Education members last week that showed a difference of $1,814,762 between projected revenue and expenditures.

As of this week, figures show projected revenues of $18,597,496 and expenditures of $20,491,450.

“We didn’t see a huge increase in our gap” after adding in two teachers and two JV teams, Mr. Cruikshank said during a community budget forum Tuesday evening. But it’s still a significant gap that will have to be addressed, he said.

“At this point there’s three things you can do,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

Among the options, he said, is to reduce spending. But that likely would mean more personnel reductions on top of those that already have been made in the past few years, he said.

Changes will have to be made, whether it’s to staffing or programming, the superintendent said. But, he said, the district already has been hit hard by staff cuts since 2010.

The reductions since 2010 include four playground monitors, two study hall monitors, one teacher clerical, two and a half cleaners, one cook/manager, three food service workers, one BOCES counselor, one business office clerical, one librarian, one facilities manager, one food service manager, four teacher assistants, one bus driver and 12 teachers from the across the board, including math, science, technology, English language arts, music, social studies, physical education, special education and adaptive physical education. “We’ve already gone through 23 people,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The district also has lost junior varsity sports, K-6 summer school and the summer recreation program.

It could also look at increasing the tax levy to close the gap, according to the superintendent. The current levy limit is $6,148,490, which equates to a 0.51 percent increase over the 2013-14 tax levy. That translates to $31,038, Mr. Cruikshank said.

“When we do the calculations, we come out well below 2 percent. Right now I have not had any discussions as to where that tax cap should, would or could end up,” he said.

The third option is to dig into the reserves and fund balance, he said.

Mr. Cruikshank said he’s hopeful elected officials will be able to secure more funding for school districts beyond what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed in his budget.

Pre-written letters to Gov. Cuomo and several other local elected officials were available to those who attended the community forum. They needed only to be signed and put in an envelope.

In the letter, school officials are asking representatives to remove the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which Mr. Cruikshank said has translated to a loss of nearly $4,000 per student over the past four years.

“That’s a lot of ground to make up,” he said.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment has caused an undue financial burden on the district, and that has translated into the possibility of students losing classes “that may cause them to lose their constitutional right to a basic education and may not allow them to graduate due to the elimination of required electives,” according to the letter.

“The cut in state aid has been too deep and too fast for districts to be able to adjust. The loss of $4 million over four budget cycles to a district that survives on a budget of just $20 million is devastating. With over 60 percent of our budget coming from state aid, this loss has resulted in the reduction of 23 positions. We have depended on our reserves and fund balance in combination with these reductions to balance this shortcoming from state aid,” the letter says.

It continues, “Please help save our school by removing the Gap Elimination Adjustment immediately. Anything that you can do to aid Norwood-Norfolk through this crisis will be greatly appreciated. Our district needs your support.”

Mr. Cruikshank encouraged those in attendance to send letters to their elected representatives. In the meantime, the district plans to have a budget update during its regular board of education meeting Tuesday, followed by an administrative council budget meeting Feb. 24, a board of education budget work session Feb. 25, another administrative council budget meeting March 10 and a board of education budget work session March 11.

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