By MATT LINDSEY
NORWOOD – Norwood-Norfolk Central School could present taxpayers with a 3.48 percent tax increase this year as school officials figure out how to close a budget gap over $500,000.
NNCS Superintendent Jamie Cruickshank says the school was in a fairly similar situation last year and used part of the fund balance to bridge the budget gap.
He says the school has been able to keep costs at a minimum through the years and are hoping they won’t need to touch the fund balance.
With a 3.48 percent tax increase, the school would be able to raise about $218,000.
“We aren't sure exactly what we will present to the public,” Cruickshank said.
The school had plans for a tax increase last year but ultimately decided against it.
“Over the last five years the actual tax levy increase after reevaluations and equalization is about zero,” he said.
NNCS is about 70 percent reliant on state funding, which is considerably more than most districts, Cruickshank said.
School officials are just starting to receive information from the state budget proposals.
“Because we rely on state aid so much, any change has a huge impact on us,” he said. “The unknown is difficult when trying to budget.”
Should the school need to make cuts Cruickshank said the cuts would likely need to be personnel, even though he says they have trimmed staff about as much as they can.
“We are not planning any cuts right now – we still have the fund balance, we don't want to use it – and there could be more state aid, so we have areas to look at,” he said. “I don't know how the board will feel about any of those options.”
NNCS is underfunded about $2.1 million this year alone from what the state says the district is owed through the state aid formula.
The Foundation Aid formula continues to strongly contribute to funding issues at NNCS, Cruickshank said.
“There are other schools in the same boat, meanwhile there are schools across the state that are overfunded and no one knows why,” Cruikshank said.
Cruickshank says the governor is proposing to get rid of the Foundation Aid formula but the Senate and Assembly are opposed to that.
“If we get full funding it would be a huge difference at Norwood-Norfolk,” he said.
Should the school end up with more in state aid allowing them to make requests for additions Cruikshank said restoring positions and shoring up some academic programs would be on his list of areas to address.
Positions that are part time or shared with other districts could become full-time positions.
“If a windfall comes in we would essentially get back the teachers we lost,” he said.
If money allots, support services for math and English would return and the school could expand services to students allowing them to work in smaller groups. Most of the teacher reductions of the past few years have been support positions.
“We have okay class sizes,” he said, “our board worked hard to keep it manageable.”
NNCS will also have to deal with larger class sizes in the coming years.
“Our elementary classes are larger than our high school ones,” he said. “Enrollment has been steady or increasing over my time here.”
Budget talks were expected to continue at a school board meeting March 21.