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AID CAPS MEAN GOAL FOR SCHOOLS IS SURVIVAL

The Franklinville Central School District Board of Education met Thursday night and, driven by what officials think were unexpected caps in state aid funding revenues, set a single goal: to make ends meet.

District Superintendent Terence M. Dolan reported $255,000 in funding revenues won't materialize because the State Legislature's temporary "bare bones" state aid caps will never be lifted.

The district based its 2001-02 budget proposal on Gov. George E. Pataki's projections in late spring, but lawmakers established limits on aid, assuring school districts that additional funds would be authorized in October.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks "everybody stopped talking," Dolan told board members, urging creative methods to cut expenses to make up for the deficit caused by a combination of the low aid figures and "overestimated" expenses.

Capped are BOCES aid, special education and textbook reimbursements, costs that are difficult to absorb for the district, which has a high population of low-income and special-education students. The number is higher than Dolan anticipated in an assessment he presented to the board in September.

"We are not fixing our numbers" in aid requests to state authorities, Dolan said after the meeting. "The numbers are real. With us it's a survival issue."

For the time being, all nonessential spending has been eliminated, including travel, conferences and field trips. All teachers and staff were told to take their personal appliances home and the thermostat controls are keeping the temperatures in both buildings slightly lower.

Officials worry that the $200,000 remaining in the district's surplus fund balance may be depleted to meet this year's payroll obligations -- before it is needed as an appropriation to keep 2002-03 property taxes down. If expenses can't be cut before year's end, there will be no money left over in any of the district's accounts, said Dolan and Penny Peters, business manager.

Board members decided not to set other goals until the funding problem is solved.

"I don't really see how we can accomplish too many other things without that," said School Board President Timothy Bigham.

They agreed to try to maximize investment revenues by adding J.P. Morgan Chase as an official depository after Peters said a banking survey showed the institution promises 2.8 percent returns on certificates of deposit and money market funds.

Peters then reported $2,700 was found in a little-known scholarship fund established with a $60 contribution by the Class of 1946. The purpose of the Student Loan Fund was to provide assistance to needy alumni wishing to pursue a higher education. Recipients would repay the money with interest, but no loans have been made since 1990.

Board members agreed to make the money available in small amounts in keeping with the wishes of the Class of '46, but will work with administrators to find a special purpose for the fund.

Also, the board asked Dolan to write a policy proposal for out-of-state field trips and class activities, but it stopped short of imposing blanket limitations and agreed with his suggestion that students should demonstrate responsible planning and preparations for their trips before bringing them to the board for approval.

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