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Canton Central predicts $2.72 million budget gap

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CANTON - When it comes to the future of Canton Central School District, Superintendent William A. Gregory isn’t mincing his words.

A 40-page powerpoint presentation he released last week is titled, “Canton Central School: On the Verge of Fiscal and Educational Insolvency.”

The grim report highlights the tough choices the district may face unless more revenue from the state comes in next school year.

A preliminary $24,514,123 budget crafted by Mr. Gregory for 2013-14 projects a $2.72 million budget gap.

Cutting non-mandated classes, sports and other activities are possibilities, the superintendent said.

“Absent significant additional revenue, we would be forced to make crippling cuts to programs and staff rendering us non-mission capable,” Mr. Gregory states in his presentation.

The at-risk list ranges from art and music to the agriculture program. Bumping up class sizes to 30 to 40 students in all school buildings is another outcome under the worst-case scenario.

Mr. Gregory has estimated $1,247,900 for “known” cost hikes. Projections include $845,700 more for employee retirement and health insurance, $215,900 for contractual salary increases, $88,800 for services provided by the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services and a $97,500 increase in debt service for the ongoing building project and bus purchases.

Increases are also likely in special education, transportation and energy, he said.

Over the past two years, the district has cut 42 faculty and staff positions and eliminated 38 classes from its curriculum. Also, four sports teams and two musical productions have been cut, one at the middle school and one at the high school.

Mr. Gregory identified four options for school districts faced with fiscal insolvency. He noted that state legislation and intervention is required for most of the existing choices.

Options include the following:

■ Deficit financing which allows schools to borrow for ongoing operational expenses.

■ Advance in state aid payments from future years.

■ Bailoutin the form of extra state aid in the current year to meet operational expenses.

■ Take over of the school district by the state education department

Mr. Gregory’s presentation can be accessed on the school district’s website: ccsdk12.org.

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