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Norwood-Norfolk chipping away at 2014-15 budget gap of $700,000

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NORFOLK — Norwood-Norfolk Central School District is facing a $700,000 budget deficit in its 2014-15 spending plan.

Superintendent James M. Cruikshank told the Board of Education on Tuesday that the gap is nearly $1.9 million, but school officials plan to allocate $1.2 million in fund balance against the tax levy.

“That will leave about $700,000,” he said. “We still have a ways to go.”

There will be more cuts along the way. So far, they have not affected educational programing, Mr. Cruikshank said.

The use of reserve funds will help, but it won’t solve all the financial woes, according to the superintendent, who said the financial situation “will still result in some strategic reductions.”

“We’re fortunate we’re able to have a conversation about reserves,” he said. “I do know some districts can no longer have that conversation. It’s not an option.”

The $1.9 million gap includes the addition of two elementary teachers and the restoration of two junior varsity sports.

The addition of two teachers was at the request of four elementary teachers who had appeared before the board earlier this month to share their concerns about class sizes next year in their current configuration.

There are three sections of fourth-grade classes with 28, 27 and 26 students. Without adding another section, those numbers would jump to two sections of 32 students each and one section of 33 students next year. With a fourth section, the school would be looking at two sections of 24 students each and two sections of 25 students each.

Board members also opted to bring two junior varsity sports — girls’ soccer and basketball — back as part of the 2014-15 spending plan.

One of Mr. Cruikshank’s concerns over the budget season has been how the Gap Elimination Adjustment has affected the district’s aid.

“Up to this point, the last four years it’s just under $4,000 per student less in state aid that we’ve received,” he said. “I’ve been going after that pretty hard ... especially when the governor is projecting a $2 billion surplus.”

District officials have created an “advocacy tool kit,” consisting of prewritten letters to elected officials, asking them to support removing the GEA.

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