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Ogdensburg School Board set to close Sherman in June, staff cuts likely

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OGDENSBURG — Sherman Elementary School will be shuttered at the end of this school year to help close a $2.5 million budget gap, the Ogdensburg Board of Education decided Monday night.

In addition, the district may be forced to cut upward of two dozen positions as well as programs because, administrators say, its state aid allocation does not keep pace with rising operating costs.

The board voted unanimously to close the elementary school one year ahead of schedule, saving an estimated $150,000. Sherman will be closed June 30.

Lincoln Elementary is still scheduled to be closed at the end of the 2013-14 school year. A third elementary, Kennedy, is being renovated to accommodate more students.

Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey said that by the end of this school year roughly 60 full-time positions at the district will have been lost since 2007.

“You simply can’t keep on doing that and have a viable institution,” he said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed budget includes $225,996 more in state aid for Ogdensburg. Along with expected tax revenue of $241,922 and $1.4 million appropriated from the fund balance, the district still faces a budget gap of $2.5 million for 2013-14.

Mr. Vernsey approached the Board of Education with a budget report that recommended eliminating nine positions, mostly through attrition, and closing Sherman Elementary School. School principals have also been asked to keep their budgets flat from last year, and several thousand dollars have been cut out of the middle and high school supplies budgets.

“That still means we have $1.5 million to go,” Mr. Vernsey said, noting the budget gap that remains.

The only thing left, Mr. Vernsey said, is to cut positions and programs. “There is nowhere else to go.”

“Take $1.5 million and divide it by $65,000” — the average cost of a teacher’s salary and benefits — “and that’ll give an indication of how many positions we have to cut,” Mr. Vernsey said. That equates to 23 positions.

Mr. Vernsey noted that cutting staff also means increasing class sizes.

He said the only ways for Ogdensburg to move forward is for the state to give more aid, by applying more fund balance, to utilize the state’s stable rate pension contribution option or ask the community to override the 2 percent property tax cap.

Board member Betty J. Mallott said she believes Ogdensburg should be looking to merge with neighboring districts in an effort to save money and provide a solid education.

Mr. Vernsey said the district is open to mergers or similar options, a sentiment that board President Frederic P. Bean has echoed in recent months.

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