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Massena school board schedules open budget workshop

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MASSENA — Massena Central School District residents will have an opportunity to hear about the district’s preliminary 2014-15 budget during a special meeting March 6. There will not be a public comment period, however.

The board had been scheduled to hold its regular monthly session March 6, but that will be moved instead to March 28.

Board member Kevin F. Perretta had inquired during this last week’s board meeting about keeping the community informed on budget deliberations, which have been handled by the district’s Finance and Budget Committee.

“The county has open meetings with the whole board there, and they’re chaired by the chairman. I think that’s a better way of doing business,” he said, noting it provides more transparency to taxpayers.

“We’re a little behind, I will say. The Finance and Budget Committee did not meet for one month. We do plan to meet next week and get back on track in that regard,” interim Superintendent William W. Crist said.

The district is facing a gap of more than $4 million in its budget proposal, according to Mr. Crist, but committee Chairman Loren J. Fountaine said that could be erased if the state would get rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment and restore foundation aid to schools.

“Foundation aid has been frozen for five years. That has cost the district more money than the Gap Elimination Aid because we are so dependent on state aid. We aren’t getting the majority of our money from the taxpayers. We are very dependent on state aid,” Mr. Fountaine said.

With state aid accounting for 60 percent of Massena’s budget, the school could turn to the taxpayers to help persuade state lawmakers to pick up that share, Mr. Fountaine said. Still, he said, the district’s financial planning had put it in a better position than other schools; the question is whether to save fund balance or spend it now.

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