NORFOLK Norwood-Norfolk Central Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the districts $20.6 million spending plan for 2014-15.
The budget represents a 1.75 percent increase over last years $20.3 million budget and carries a 0.49 percent tax levy increase, which would raise $29,908. A 1 percent increase in the tax levy equals $61,175.
The current tax rate is $30.39 per $1,000 of assessed value for property owners in the town of Norfolk and $24.92 per $1,000 for town of Potsdam residents.
District officials whittled away at the spending plan, which initially had a $632,000 gap and included the elimination of eight full-time equivalent teachers, including a half-time science teacher, half-time English language arts teacher, half-time social studies teacher, half-time math teacher and three teaching assistants. That move would have saved $498,000.
But the potential reductions in teaching assistants brought standing-room-only crowds of community members, parents, teachers and graduates to recent Board of Education meetings to share their concerns about the impact the move would have on students. Many said the teaching assistants provide not only academic support, but also personal support for students, and some graduates said they would not have received their diplomas without that assistance.
District officials had been basing projected cuts on the state aid proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. But, when the final state budget passed, the districts aid increased, allowing it to limit personnel cuts to a half-time business teacher and a half-time cleaner.
District officials also had looked at extracurricular activities for cuts, and Superintendent James M. Cruikshank had recommended modifications to eliminate some stipends. The Travel Club was on the final list of cuts, as was a high school science club. The high school Student Council will continue, but with one adviser stipend instead of two.
Mr. Cruikshank had also recommended that one of the two assistant coach stipends for boys and girls spring track teams be eliminated, and the remaining assistant coach work with both teams.
The budget calls for the addition of fourth- and fifth-grade teachers. Some elementary teachers had shared their concerns with board members that leaving fourth grade with its current three sections would mean two sections of 32 students each and one section of 33 students next year. By adding the fourth section, those numbers will be reduced to two sections of 24 students each and two sections of 25 students each.
A budget hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 13 in the districts boardroom, and residents will cast their votes on May 20. Voters also will fill three school board seats currently held by David C. Flint, Karl J. Fetter and Jonathan L. Hunkins.