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Clough says voter rejection of budget doesn’t eliminate cuts

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MASSENA — Massena Central School Superintendent Roger B. Clough II says he has heard people say they will vote against the 2013-14 budget on May 21 because of the severity of the personnel cuts.

But no matter how they vote, those positions won’t come back, he said.

In a superintendent’s message posted Wednesday on the district’s website, Mr. Clough said that should voters reject the budget, the situation may only be worsened if the district is forced to adopt a contingency budget.

The district’s board of education approved the $46.76 million budget proposal on Monday. It increases spending $715,773, or 1.6 percent, and increases the tax levy $388,127, or 2.9 percent. Because the proposed tax levy increase is below the district’s allowable tax levy limit of 5.3 percent, the budget requires only a simple majority of voters to pass.

In crafting the budget, district officials had to make up an original projected budget gap of $5.7 million, which fell to $5.4 million when the state adopted its budget. And in order to get there, it used a combination of $3.1 million in district fund balance and $2.3 million in cuts to staff and programs, eliminating, among other things, the Delta School of Choice, formerly known as the Alternative Education School.

The budget calls for the elimination of 29.25 full-time equivalent positions. Altogether, it reduces or eliminates 42 positions across all departments.

Since the board adopted that budget by a 7-2 vote, with Kevin F. Perretta and Leonard A. Matthews voting against it, Mr. Clough said he has heard “disgruntled people saying that they would vote against the budget on May 21.”

“They believe that voting the budget down would somehow restore the 29.25 positions lost in this proposal. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

Mr. Clough said state laws are very specific concerning school budgets and what can happen should a budget be rejected by voters.

“Residents only vote on a spending amount. Regardless of the vote outcome, the board of education has full control over how that money is spent over the course of the year,” he said.

If voters rejected the budget, the Board of Education could put the same budget up for a revote, put out a modified budget for a vote or adopt a contingency budget. If the budget is defeated a second time, the district must adopt a contingency budget.

Under a contingency budget, the district would not be allowed to collect any more taxes than it did last year.

“The budget proposal calls for a 2.9 percent tax levy increase, or $388,127. The board would have to make $388,127 more in cuts, use more district savings or some combination of the two,” Mr. Clough said.

A contingency budget also would require the district to cap the administrative component and eliminate certain equipment purchases and the free use of facilities by outside groups.

“If the community rejects the proposed budget and any revote, the Board of Education will have no option but to adopt a contingent budget,” Mr. Clough said. “Under a contingent budget, the board cannot spend more than the budgeted amount. The board cannot reinstate the lost positions. In fact, it may need to make even deeper cuts instead of using more district savings.”

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