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Massena Central budget cuts alternative-education program

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MASSENA — The Delta School of Choice, formerly known as the Alternative Education School, is among the casualties of spending cuts in the Massena Central School District for next year.

The Board of Education on Monday night approved a 2013-14 budget that eliminates 29.25 full-time-equivalent positions to save approximately $1.77 million.

Three other positions will be cut through attrition and retirement, 1.5 positions will be replaced with a lower salary and two positions will be transferred to the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Approximately $114,000 will be saved through the elimination of some stipends, and approximately $274,000 will be saved through other means, such as eliminating programs like Learn to Lead, the after-school 3-5 Recovery Program, the Educational Support Center and the Community and School-Education-Recreation program.

Positions that are being eliminated under the spending plan are two administrators, which includes the Delta School of Choice; one human resources professional; one clerical worker; a 0.5 communication specialist; a 0.5 transportation dispatcher; one cleaner; a 0.5 mechanic; 0.5 food service workers; one senior food service manager; a 0.25 food service driver, one alternative-education coordinator from the Delta School of Choice and a 0.5 high school physical education teacher from the Delta School of Choice.

Other positions include two high school science teachers; 1.5 high school math teachers; one high school English teacher; one high school social studies teacher; a 0.5 high school art teacher; a 0.5 high school business teacher; a high school modern language position, three high school guidance counselors and two high school teacher assistants. The Delta School of Choice is affected by those cuts.

Also being eliminated are a seventh-grade junior high modern language position; one first-grade teacher, one fourth-grade teacher and three reader teacher assistants.

Finance Committee Chairman Michael J. LeBire said the projected expense increases the district was facing in 2013-14 included a $921,812 increase in salaries, an $839,953 increase in retirement contributions, a $613,470 increase in health insurance and a $297,919 increase in BOCES costs, totalling $2,673,154. The initial budget estimate showed a shortfall of $5.6 million.

Mr. LeBire said options to close that gap included using fund reserves, raising taxes and cutting expenses, and the board employed all three options. He said the 2013-14 spending plan calls for using $3.1 million in reserves. If the district continued to use the reserves at the current rate to make up for losses in state aid, Mr. LeBire said, the unrestricted reserves would be exhausted by 2016-17.

The board plans to present voters with a 2.9 percent tax levy increase, although the tax levy cap is 5.3 percent.

Mr. LeBire said the district looked at a number of criteria before making the decision on cuts. He said the goal was to make $2.5 million to $3 million in cuts; by the time it finished, the committee had made approximately $2.3 million in cuts.

The areas the panel looked at when making the cuts included mandatory versus non-mandatory positions and programs; the impact on students, the district and the community; the cost of the program and cost per student; maximizing shared services with BOCES; maintaining acceptable class sizes, maintaining programs and using feedback from stakeholder meetings.

When all was said and done, the district’s $46.7 million budget was a 1.6 percent increase over 2012-13. It contained $2.3 million in cuts and 3.1 million in reserve funds.

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