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CSD plans to engage community, study solutions for fiscal woes

The Skaneateles Central School District will engage the public in coming months to study potential strategies to deal with its financial problems while still maintaining programs.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Judy Pastel gave a presentation to about 50 people to lay out the problems the district faces and how they intend to study solutions, at a board of education work session on Nov. 5.

The large attendance was likely due to the district’s controversial announcement two weeks prior that they would study the idea of moving fifth grade into the middle school and second grade into State Street Intermediate School. Board President Kathryn Carlson acknowledged the large crowd and said that the board wants to work with them for a common goal.

“We are aware that you are here for children and we are also here for children, and I know that we can work together to solve this problem to the benefit of the students in this community,” Carlson said.

The announcement about studying grade shifts had sparked an online petition on Oct. 24 that received 100 signatures in less than a day. The petition called for the district to take a step back and look at more ideas to develop a long-term plan for the district – and they took that advice.

Pastel started the meeting by apologizing to the public that had come to listen. She said that she had gotten ahead of herself with her initial plan to study grade shifts and thanked the community members who had circulated emails and the petition.

Pastel gave a presentation outlining the challenges the district faces and stating its goal to “keep excellent programs and fiscal responsibility despite external stressors.”

The stressors facing the district include depleted cash reserves, a 1.66 percent tax cap for the next budget, declining birth rates and declining enrollment, economic decline in the region since 2007, decline in employment, declining federal funding, shrinking of teachers and staff through layoffs and attrition, unused space in buildings and declining state aid.

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