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PCS finance committee begins reviewing cuts

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POTSDAM — Facing a budget deficit next year of about $1.3 million, the Potsdam Central School District’s finance committee began looking at ways to fill the gap Monday night.

Among the options reviewed by the committee was relocating eighth-grade students to the high school or ninth-grade students to the middle school. Either option would save the district $779,158, equal to nearly 60 percent of the deficit, according to a joint presentation by middle school Principal Jamie Cruikshank and high school Principal Joann M. Chambers.

The principals made it clear, however, that they don’t like those options. “Each of them bring devastating effects to our educational programming and could have detrimental impact on the culture and climate of the two buildings,” their memo to the committee stated.

Moving eighth-graders into the high school would mean 10.7 positions could be eliminated, including two teachers from each of the four core departments of English, math, science and social studies. Art also would be affected.

The results would mean bigger classes, Ms. Chambers said.

“No matter how you shake it, a lot of teachers would be teaching classes they’ve never taught before,” she said, adding that with the new teacher evaluation system, now is not a good time to introduce teachers to new classes.

The educators said such a realignment would be possible only because this year’s incoming class is the smallest the district has ever seen.

“While we have this small dip, we can talk about this,” Mr. Cruikshank said. “Once those small classes go through and the numbers go back up, you’re running into a whole other set of issues.”

Moving the ninth-graders into the middle school similarly could save 10.5 positions.

Under a third scenario, “we could make some reductions without moving any students,” Ms. Chambers said.

That would save $441,259 by eliminating 6.5 positions between the two buildings. Those positions would include one teacher from each of the core subjects and a part-time foreign language position; retiring music and physical education teachers would not be replaced.

The board also heard other options for cutting the budget, including junior varsity sports; middle school intramural and extracurricular activities; and elementary school math lab, extracurricular programs, summer school and alternative physical education.

Potential transportation cuts could include reducing the late after-school bus run.

Superintendent Patrick H. Brady emphasized that none of the mentioned cuts has been made.

Mr. Brady said the calculation of a $1.3 million budget deficit is based on increasing the tax levy by 4 percent, which would still be within the tax cap, and spending $1.45 million in reserve.

“To be conservative, this is a figure we thought we could put in at this point,” he said, noting that would be $697,546 less than what was used to help balance this year’s budget.

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