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General Brown residents want to save their schools

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BROWNVILLE — A group of about 30 community members, teachers, students, administrators and one board member gathered Tuesday at the fire hall to start a grassroots effort to save the General Brown Central School District.

The district faces both fiscal and educational insolvency due to a nearly $1.8 million deficit that could mean the potential loss of at least 23 positions, four programs and related services that could be reduced or eliminated. Many at the meeting agreed they need to come up with strategies in the next few weeks before the Board of Education adopts its spending plan and help board members plan for the future.

Two main questions linger: what are people willing to give up, and how much more money are they willing to pay to avoid some cuts?

“Living in a society we all pay our taxes,” said Sandra Young Klindt, a Dexter resident who has children attending Dexter Elementary. “I’m paying Social Security, welfare and Medicaid. School taxes are something we’ve all benefited from. When we were in school 10, 20 or 30 years ago, our neighbors were paying school taxes so we could get an education. We’re paying it forward. We need to sell our school.”

Mrs. Klindt, who is running for a board seat in May, said if the consensus is to go for the highest tax levy increase of just over 27 percent needed to keep programs and jobs from being cut, then people will need to persuade their neighbors of the need.

The district’s 2012-13 budget is $20,829,411, with a $6,384,854 tax levy.

Jamie M. Lee, meeting co-organizer who has children that attend Dexter Elementary, said throughout the next two days people could submit questions via the Facebook page “For Kids Sake, save General Brown Jobs,” which was created by Kory Kittle.

After questions and comments are submitted, Mrs. Lee and meeting co-organizer Penny J. Price will send one list of questions to General Brown Business Manager Lisa K. Smith. Once responses to those questions are received, the group will meet again to determine a course of action and have facts people could bring door-to-door to educate their neighbors about the proposed 2013-14 spending plan and how it could be paid for.

“I’m willing to walk my road,” Mr. Kittle said.

Daniel J. Dupee II, the only board member to attend the meeting, said a group of people the district needs to educate about the budget process are people ages 18 and up who may vote, but who don’t pay school taxes. Something everyone has to realize, he said, is that a double-digit tax levy increase will be needed over the next three years.

“This is a perfect example of why you never do a 0 percent increase,” he said.

Last year, the board approved a 2.8 percent tax levy increase.

A few people at the meeting suggested getting General Brown students involved, and one teacher, who declined to be identified, suggested the district offer half-day kindergarten to avoid large kindergarten classroom sizes. Other ideas included consolidating the junior-senior high school late bus run with those of the afternoon runs from both Dexter and Brownville-Glen Park elementary schools and researching how to go about selling advertising on athletic fields and other school district property.

To join the discussion, people may request to join the Facebook group by logging onto the social media site and searching the group name. Mrs. Lee said people could also send her an email at jdlynn@hotmail.com. Budget information is also on the district website, www.gblions.org.

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