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Ogdensburg City School fund balance two years from depleted

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The Ogdensburg City School district is looking at a fund balance that will be almost entirely wiped out within two years unless revenue increases significantly or costs decrease.

The current $33.7 million budget includes withdrawing $2.3 million from the district’s $4.2 million fund balance.

Presenting the Board of Education a three-year budget projection at Monday’s meeting, Jeff Swanson, school business manager, said, “You basically have no fund balance left next year.”

By June 2014 Mr. Swanson predicts the school will have a mere $118,200 left in the reserve budget. Noting that this year’s budget utilized $2.3 million in order to close the gap between revenues and expenses, Mr. Swanson said he doesn’t think the school will be able to balance the budget on its own.

Although he was presenting a three year budget projection Mr. Swanson said, “Until you resolve next year’s problem it’s hard to talk about the third year.”

Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey said the district has been caught between the state’s two percent tax cap, decreasing state aid and declining enrollment.

“Under current law there’s just no way we can maintain this,” he said, “unless [the state] wants us to cut everything.”

Mr. Vernsey said the only way the school could carry on under the status quo is by cutting all extracurricular activities, including art and music, and only providing the absolute core subjects.

“This district alone has cut more than 50 positions in the last four years,” he said. “We’ve done everything that was asked of us. What now?”

As for enrollment Mr. Vernsey said the school is down from roughly 2,600 students several years ago to 1,800 today. And with the loss of students state aid is also stripped away.

Michael J. Tooley, vice president of the board, said Mr. Swanson’s presentation demonstrates “the fact that we’re going to take a beating next year.”

Mr. Tooley said schools, including Ogdensburg, need “to take a more regional approach to lobbying for state aid.”

“What happens when a school goes broke?” asked Mr. Vernsey rhetorically. He said when a school is unable to pay its bills it either has to take on loans or get taken over by the state.

In either case, he said, education suffers.

Mr. Vernsey said that in Ogdensburg, like many other school districts across the state, “the question is when, not it, but when you run out of fund balance.”

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