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General Brown BOE to mull budget options

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DEXTER — School officials say the threat of fiscal and educational insolvency at General Brown Central School District is greater, now that the board-adopted budget of $21,096,729 was defeated Tuesday.

While the budget gained a 806-580 plurality, it fell 26 votes short of the 832 it would have needed to gain a needed 60 percent margin. Board members will decide Wednesday how they want to proceed. Options include putting the same budget up for a second vote in June, putting a revised budget up for vote in June, or immediately adopting a contingency budget. Under a contingency budget, a district’s tax levy cannot be greater than the current tax levy of $6,384,854. That means more staff and/or program cuts are likely.

“The fact General Brown spends the second least per pupil in the state exacerbates why we face this fiscal insolvency issue,” said Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr., outgoing district superintendent who willmove into the same role at St. :awrence Central on July 1.

Although he had blamed the board for depleting the district’s fund balance, he said Wednesday the real issue is with the state. The district has been hurt by the loss of more than $6 million alone through the gap elimination adjustment.

If 26 people had changed their “no” vote to a “yes” vote Tuesday, the Board of Education wouldn’t have to ponder how to move past its defeated budget. An approved budget would have required a vote of at least 60 percent or more of voters because the tax levy increase was greater than the district’s 5.38 percent state tax cap. The proposed tax levy increase was 9.9 percent.

Mr. Vigliotti said the district has aggressively pursued changing the state aid formula to bring more money to the rural area.

“It’s certainly something we’ve worked on here for the past five years,” he said. “It’s all individual because each school district’s story is different.”

He said a financial consultant has worked with the board for four years, and “for anyone who says, ‘What’s happened?’ that’s just disingenuous.”

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said she continues to work toward reallocation of state funds to rural schools from wealthier districts downstate.

“I work with a pretty strong coalition, and at this point there’s still $1 billion in cuts that haven’t been restored. I’m certainly hoping in the next two to three years we can restore those cuts.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said it’s “extremely important” to her to hear feedback from district staff and residents. She, too, would like to see a more fair distribution of state aid to rural school districts, including General Brown.

Mr. Vigliotti said it’s been about four or five years since a General Brown budget has been defeated.

Board members will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the junior-senior high school, 17643 Cemetery Road, to discuss their course of action.

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