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J-D School District faces filling potential $2.7 million budget gap

The Jamesville-DeWitt School District, facing deep funding cuts, will have to fill a budget gap next year that could approach $2.7 million.

The shortfall is due to an expected $9 billion deficit in the New York State Department of Education and the rising cost of benefits and retirement pensions in the district, which will increase by $765,000 next year, said Superintendent Alice Kendrick. In a best-case scenario, the district will only have to fill a $1.5 million hole in 2011, and the Jamesville-DeWitt school board is hoping for the best - but planning for the worst.

"Some expense reductions will have to be made, even if the district uses all of its reserves," Kendrick said. "We're facing a 5-percent reduction in state aid this year, and another 5 percent next year."

The district has a reserve account that could almost completely cushion a worst-case funding cut to its $11.8 million budget, but district business manager Tim Decker said that depleting the reserve account is hardly a long-term solution. The district might have to resort to unpopular measures to keep the ledger out of the red.

"When you face a budget gap like this, there are really only two solutions: programming cuts or tax increases," Decker said.

Board Vice President Dennis Resetarits suggested establishing lines of communication between taxpayers and the school board, both to keep the district informed about efforts to balance the budget and to take public suggestions into account.

Historically, districts know how much they can expect to receive from the state and federal coffers by mid- to late November, but that is not the case this year, Brown said.

Budget squeezes will be hardest to alleviate in small rural districts, which may not have the resources or the tax base to weather consecutive years of shrinking aid, Kendrick said.

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