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Mohon mulls $1.9M projected budget gap

Community budget forum focuses on 2.28 percent tax levy increase

— Mohonasen Central School District is likely facing another year of budget cuts after shedding more than $6.5 million in spending and 60 positions over the last three years.

The district held its first community budget forum on Monday, Jan 30, at the Mohonasen High School Farnsworth Technology Center. The forum included a presentation from school officials on the 2012-13 budget process and then attendees broke off into groups to discuss various questions related to the budget. Also, the district for the first time had people connected to the meeting through an online interface with audio and slides shared online.

Superintendent Kathleen Spring started the forum with a hard look at where the district could be headed if state aid continues to decline.

The district will likely see a 1 percent increase in state aid, according to Spring, or about $180,000. This year, the district is also seeing expiring federal aid, resulting in $843,000 less to help ease the budget burden.

“About 50 percent of our budget comes through state aid,” she said. “If something doesn’t change drastically in terms of the funding formula, or combined with serious mandate relief, we have about two to three years we will be able to operate as a district.”

Spring said it would be an “economic disaster for Rotterdam” if the district ceased operating.

This also became a concern expressed during the breakout groups, because cutting programs and services also makes the school less valuable to those using it.

Scott Singlemen, father to a junior student and a 1-year-old, said continuing to gut the budget could have people turned off from moving into the district. Also, he said others might choose to leave.

Every breakout group basically turned down the option of having no tax levy increase, which would mean drastic reductions in staffing and programming. Once scenario presented would increase taxes 3.4 percent over the tax cap. This would require a supermajority of over 61 percent voter approval. A decent amount of community members in attendance supported this option, but felt the community wouldn’t pass it.

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