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NORFOLK — Norwood-Norfolk Central School Board of Education members had a look at the first draft of the district’s 2021-22 budget, which currently carries a gap of just over $782,000.

But, as Superintendent James Cruikshank told them on Tuesday, it’s only the first draft and they still have a ways to go before it’s finalized and sent to the voters for approval in May.

“This is one of the smaller gaps in our first budget presentation,” he said.

Mr. Cruikshank said the draft estimated revenue budget was $23,332,886, down from the current $24,574,114.

That figure includes $16,533,426 in state and federal aid, $6,534,756 in tax levy funding, and $264,704 in other miscellaneous revenue. The current 2020-21 budget uses $728,179 from the appropriated fund balance and $529,722 in reserves, but those aren’t addressed in the draft budget.

He said their initial state and federal aid figures include a small increase of just under $15,000 in building aid. State and federal aid represents 70.86% of the district’s budget.

“We did not include any changes in foundation aid or anything like that,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The largest chunk of expenditures is salaries, which are estimated at $8,052,093, down from the current $8,526,214. He said that includes a 2% increase, but the overall figure is lower because there will be fewer teachers in the 2021-22 budget than in the current year’s spending plan.

“That doesn’t indicate anything about negotiations,” he said.

Other estimated expenditures include $$358,621 for the Employee Retirement System, $632,238 for the Teacher Retirement system, $5,818,529 for health care premiums, and $2,512,025 for services provided by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, for a total of $24,114,896. That’s a 1.87% difference from the current $24,574,114.

Mr. Cruikshank said their draft shows a 3% increase in BOCES services and a 2% increase in health insurance.

He said there would be three ways to address whatever the final gap might be. Among those is a tax levy increase, with a projected 1.23% tax cap.

They could also reduce spending, or use reserves and fund balance.

“We don’t want to go there just yet,” Mr. Cruikshank said of the use of reserves and fund balance. He said they had already reduced 3.5 teaching positions and five aide positions that were left vacant following resignations. They also had 13 other retirements or resignations where positions were filled by individuals with lower salaries.

Budget work will continue into February and beyond, with a board of education budget work session to discuss fund balance and reserves, and tax levy and cap on Feb. 2; a supervisor’s budget meeting on Feb. 4; a review of budget updates during a Feb. 9 board of education meeting; an administrative council budget meeting on Feb. 22, and if necessary, a Feb. 23 board of education budget work session.

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