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At work in the North Franklin Education Center. Source: BOCES
At work in the North Franklin Education Center. Source: BOCES

BOCES plans Franklin County cuts

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People across the North Country gave wide approval yesterday to budgets for their local school districts. It's been a difficult year for many school administrators because, for the first time, they've had to craft budgets that stay within the state's cap on increases in the local property taxes that help fund the districts.

Some have had to resort to cutting programs or staff. One budget for the next school year that wasn't put to a vote yesterday will result in more than 40 layoffs of teachers and teaching assistants in BOCES programs in northern Franklin County. Chris Knight reports.

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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Next year's budget for the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton Board of Cooperative Educational Services includes a cut of $2.9 million in special education services. That's roughly half of the $6.2 million BOCES spent on instruction for students with disabilities in this year’s budget.

BOCES Superintendent Stephen Shafer said the reduction is tied to decisions by the Salmon River and Brushton-Moira school districts to cut back dramatically on the amount of special education services they’ve been getting through BOCES. The two districts will now provide those services in-house, Shafer said, "Obviously this impacts a significant number of employees. We anticipate about 45 position losses here at the BOCES. Some of those individuals will have rights to open positions that may occur in the districts that are taking back program, but certainly a significant number of those individuals will probably be left without a position starting in September."

Shafer said the 45 people who will lose their jobs include special education teachers, teaching assistants, monitors and aides who've been working in northern Franklin County.

This isn’t the first time FEH BOCES has had to cut back its staffing so dramatically. In 2005 it eliminated nearly 30 special education positions for the same reasons.

Local school officials say they believe they can offer services like special education much cheaper than BOCES. In part, Shafer said, that's because BOCES has to add the cost of its own administration and overhead into the per-student rates it charges districts for its services. "It's just that the districts feel they have the ability to absorb these programs without having to add to their overhead costs," Shafer said.

Despite the cut to its special education program budget, Shafer said other BOCES services are growing or are more stable, including its shared business office, payroll services and its career and technical education program.

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