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North Country/Tri-Lakes

Residents talk with state officials about school funding

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Residents talk with state officials about school funding
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As schools ponder their fiscal future, all eyes are on the governor and what he will present in his budget. State officials met with concerned residents in Canton Thursday to discuss what they are doing to help local schools. Barry Wygel was there and has more on what is being done in Albany.

CANTON, N.Y. -- For parents and teachers in North Country schools, they see a bleak future. And after meeting with state officials Thursday, it's clear there is no easy answer.

"The way the funding is distributed, the aid formula, is very discriminatory against us in Upstate New York," said Assemblyman Marc Butler.

"There are schools that have not had to make any cuts programmatically. They should at least have to tighten their belts a little bit," said Assemblywoman Addie Russell.

All the officials recognized that the North Country schools have been hit disproportionately hard with budget cuts in the recent years.

"Fiscally, there is not a lot of money out there to deal with the problem, but there is a couple things the state is responsible for: Roads and bridges and educating the students," said State Senator Patty Ritchie.

One of the largest questions that has remained unanswered is what will happen if a school gets to the point where it is unable to pay its bills.

"I actually asked that question, because I heard from some of my superintendents that it's a distinct possibility and their answer was 'we don't know what's going to happen," said Ritchie.

The possibility of consolidation or former regional high schools has been discussed, but Assemblywomen Russell said that's not the answer.

"Oftentimes, consolidation or mergers is going to cost multiple school districts far more than they are already paying for. I really think our focus should be on fixing the formula," said Russell.

But if it isn't fixed, they may be on the brink of disaster.

Recently, half of the North Country's superintendents said they will not have enough money to provide a suitable education within two years.

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