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Potsdam, Canton officials warn of crunch if school districts don’t merge

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POTSDAM — Information presented Tuesday by Potsdam Central School Superintendent Patrick H. Brady included projections of what taxpayers in Canton and Potsdam would face if the districts decide not to merge. The information prompted one resident, Angie Peploski, to ask, “What happens when we go bankrupt?”

Mr. Brady said options include paying tuition to send students to a neighboring district, borrowing money to cover expenses or having the state examine Potsdam’s finances.

Board of Education member Frederick C. Stone Jr. offered another option: “You could put out a budget with a 21 percent tax rate increase and let the community decide if it’s worth it.”

Ms. Peploski said the answer to “what if?” has to be shared.

“I think the community really needs to know what happens if this doesn’t happen,” she said. Nobody likes changes, she said, and therefore “people may tend to vote against this.”

According to budget projections offered by Mr. Brady, the Canton school district would run out of money by the end of the 2015-16 school year, and Potsdam’s savings would evaporate by the end of 2017-18.

Projections through 2019-20 show that while a merged district would spend some of its reserves, it would have more than $5.7 million in savings.

“What this merger money seems to offer is pushing back our execution date by three years,” said Geoffrey Clark, referring to the projections that show even a merged district would have to dip into its fund balance after only three years.

“There are some things that would have to change,” Mr. Brady said, adding he would like to see insurance contributions for employees determined by the state rather than left to each district to negotiate.

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