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State budget boost not enough for NNY schools

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North Country school districts did better in the final state budget than expected.

State senator Patty Ritchie says schools in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties got $7 million more than the Governor had proposed, and a total of $25 million more than last year.

But many districts still struggling with to make ends meet.

Ann Adams is superintendent at the Hermon-DeKalb Central School. She says her district is on track to go broke in 2015.

So, the final state budget numbers are good news: an extra $140,000.

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Julie Grant
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Adams' district has been trying to figure how to pay the bills. It was planning to cut staff and programs, dip into the fund balance, and ask voters for a property tax hike. She says the state money will allow the district to "take a look at maybe not having to touch the fund balance, maybe being able to lower the tax levy from what we have calculated as the tax cap, and may allow us to reinstate some of the cuts made for this next school year in our draft budget."

Adams and other North Country superintendents, say schools have been suffering since 2008. That's when the state started cutting school aid, to offset its own deficit.

Adams says even with the additional state money, it's not enough to prevent insolvency.

"In March, when we were doing a draft budget, it cut so deep as to look at things like field trips, all extra-curricular activities, except for a very few, any library books, looking at cutting sports programs. We really are at the point where there's nothing left to cut. Some of those very bare basic things will be able to be reinstated by the board. But long-range planning indicates that as soon as 2015-16 school year, we will not have any reserves."

Many districts in the region expect to go broke in the next few years. Hermon-DeKalb is looking into a partnership with schools in Morristown and Heuvelton to add programs and save money. Adams says DeKalb Junction is reassessing property values in the town, and that could also mean more money for the school district.

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