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Students from LP Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake learning to tap maple trees. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thewildcenter/6816212070/">The WIld Center</a>, CC <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en">some rights reserved</a>
Students from LP Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake learning to tap maple trees. Photo: The WIld Center, CC some rights reserved

Tupper school finances at a tipping point

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School districts across the North Country have been closely following state budget negotiations in Albany, hoping a budget deal will lead to a bigger increase in aid than proposed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's original budget.

Officials at one school district in Franklin County said this week that they've reached a financial tipping point. Tupper Lake School leaders said the district may be headed for insolvency, and may have to close the doors in a few years without more state aid.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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Tupper Lake School Superintendent Seth McGowan told his school board this week that the district's budget is set to rise $1.8 million or 11.4 percent in the next school year.

We have plugged all the holes in the dam, battened down the hatches, and we have been under tremendous pressure. Now the levy just broke.
School officials have worked to keep the spending relatively stable in recent years, but McGowan said that's no longer possible. "We are suffering from what I'm referring to as the elastic effect," he said. "That is, we have plugged all the holes in the dam, battened down the hatches, and we have been under tremendous pressure. Now the levy just broke."

Increases in employee benefits and programs for special-needs students were named as some of the biggest factors behind the budget increase.

Three years ago the district laid off 25 percent of its teaching staff due to budget constraints. More layoffs won't solve the problem now, McGowan said, because any further cuts would reduce instructional time, meaning students wouldn't meet the requirements to graduate from high school.

McGowan said his district still suffers from the implementation of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a reduction in state aid that began under Gov. David Paterson and has cost Tupper Lake schools $5.4 million, more than any other district in the Adirondack Park.

School board president Dan Mansfield said if the state doesn't pony up more aid in the next two to three years, it will be difficult to keep the district's doors open."Now we're at the point where we're talking about surviving," Mansfield said, "actually surviving with a viable school that can graduate students and meets the minimum requirements by law."

Tupper Lake school officials have been meeting with state legislators to plead their case for more funding and for a change in the state's aid formula.

Reporter Chris Knight's reporting is courtesy of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. For more, go to AdirondackDailyEnterprise.com.

 

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