North Country schools sec little to cheer in final state budget

Lawmakers approved the state budget in the early morning hours Thursday, restoring some S230 million in school aid.

But school officials in the North Country say the existing cuts will still be painful.

The Saranac Lake Central School District saw a portion of state aid restored to its budget, but it won't be enough to prevent proposed cuts, including about 14 staff members.

That's according to Dan Bower, the district's assistant supervisor for business.

Bower says the district will get $466,347 less in state aid this year. In all, the school will receive about S7 million in aid, slightly more than what the district was planning for, which Bower says is good news.

That means taxpayers can expect an increase in spending of about a half percent.

"That will happen regardless of what we do," Bower said. "What we do may change a little over the next couple of weeks, but we expect to be where we were talking at the last meeting. About a half percent will be our spending increase."

Bower says the district has been planning on living within a potential two percent property tax cap.

"We were anticipating having to deal with a two percent tax cap and having to live within that," he said. "We anticipate being in that vicinity when all is said and done."

Saranac Lake isn't alone in its budget struggles. Schools across the North Country are now faced with multi-million dollar aid cuts. Statewide, cuts total S697 million.

"The results will be grim," said Tim Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Board Association.

Kremer said a recent school board survey found that schools throughout the state are planning mass layoffs, larger classes, depletion of reserve funds, school closings and tax increases.

Kremer promised to push for legislative reform that would help schools control their costs.

George Earl contributed to this report.

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