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High School pool to close June 30

The Iroquois School Board has voted to close the high school pool, effective June 30, until funds are available to make recommended repairs.

It was just one measure intended to lighten the expense load on next year's budget, which, board members learned Monday, might be in even worse shape than expected.

Following a trip to the State Capitol, where officials from the district spoke with legislators, Superintendent Neil Rochelle delivered the bad news to the board based on his discussions there and the most likely scenarios being drawn up in Albany.

"This is not a good picture. It's worse than we anticipated. Iroquois could be one of the hardest-hits districts in New York State based on percentages," Rochelle said.

He said that the district stands to lose 13 percent, or about $1.6 million, in state aid revenue. Offsetting the loss will require about $2.2 million in expense reductions, Rochelle said.

At the announcement, board members asked why a district rated third out of 219 in cost efficiency should get hit so hard?

Business Administrator Douglas Scofield said it is because of the district's "wealth ratio," a calculation used by the state that takes into account family income, enrollment and the number of students taking advantage of free or reduced-price lunches in the district. Scofield said cost-per-student efficiency is not figured into the formula.

Iroquois has already reduced expenses this year by over $300,000, Rochelle said, and plans to move forward with what he called a "zero-budgeting strategy" so that the tax increase for next year is at or below the consumer price index of 4 percent.

His instructions to building principals: "If you can't justify it, we can't support it."

By closing the pool, the district expects to save $3,000 a month. The middle school pool, home to the district's swim team practices, will take on the extra load from community groups and the Tri-town Summer Program -- organizations that have already been told the high school pool may be out of commission, Rochelle said.

The board agreed to revisit he decision in six months for the 2010-11 school year. Repairs on the 50-year-old pool are expected to cost $5,000.

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