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Canton Elementary School students
Canton Elementary School students

Property tax cap passed quietly, but could make a big noise in North Country schools

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Buried by the passage of the same sex marriage law Friday night, was the news that the state legislature also passed the 2 percent property tax cap.

Over the last several months several North Country educators have came out against the cap, saying it would disproportionately affect poor rural areas and would make it difficult for schools to keep up with rising costs.

Canton Central School District Superintendent William Gregory has been among the most outspoken of these opponents and wrote a letter last year to Governor Cuomo arguing against the cap. Nora Flaherty spoke with Gregory to get his take on how the cap will affect North Country school districts.

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Nora Flaherty
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"It will place our schools ultimately in a fairly difficult position," Gregory said. "With the leveling of the state aid and the normal increases that we experience in the cost of operating a school, personnel cost and energy, things of that nature, it just makes it very difficult to balance the funding equation."

"If we were capped at 2 percent that would equate to approximately $150,000 loss in revenue for us in Canton," Gregory said. "That would translate to roughly two teachings positions.

"If we don't have an increase in state aid then and we are unable to raise additional revenue through taxes, something has to give and normally that's program and personnel when it comes to schools. I understand the larger picture and the constraints faced by our lawmakers by trying to balance a budget because I face the same thing at my level.

"I do believe that taking risk with the education of our students in the state will have a potentially much greater impact in the long range on the state of the state and the state of our nation.

"I think that the North Country will be disproportionately affected by the tax cap. I think that there are areas of the state that are extremely supportive for education, they have the resources. We are limited in that regard here in the North Country and we are heavily dependent upon state aid... I think it just places us at greater risk.

"We had a very difficult time this year at Canton. We lost 20 faculty and staff positions."

Gregory said he might be forced to make more difficult cuts in the future, which would adversely affect the school's educational mission.



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