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Community Letter 4-10-2020

April 10, 2020

Dear Cato-Meridian Community,

We hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well. There are a lot of changes we have made due to our current situation. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and on-line learning are just a few effects of COVID-19.

The financial effects of COVID-19 are not fully known. Last week Governor Cuomo’s 2020 budget indicated school districts will receive the same school aid as 2019-20. However, the devil is in the details. The Governor now has executive power to “make quarterly adjustments”. In short, we are going to have to change our school budget. Historically, some of you remember the 2008 stock market crash. During that financial crisis from 2010-2015 our school budget was reduced by a total of 6.4 million dollars. The worst yearly cut was 2011-12 school year with a 1.8-million-dollar reduction.

The school financial crisis in New York State will not be a one-year problem. Experts in the state expect this financial crisis will be worse than 2008. Although, no one has the crystal ball to accurately predict our state aid in future years, it is inevitable we must make changes. The Board of Education (BOE) and I feel strongly about making systemic changes that will put us on a path of financial strength for many years to come. These decisions will be made keeping in mind which change would have the least impact on our kids and educational programs.

Systemically, we have been a 3 building school district for a long time. With the continuation of declining enrollment and the current financial crisis we need to become more efficient. To become more efficient, the Board of Education and I have decided starting in the fall of 2020, we will operate as a two building district. The Cato-Meridian Elementary School will be Pre-k through 6th grade. The Cato-Meridian High School will be 7 th -12th grade. The new configuration will save approximately $300,000.00 annually.

Although $300,000.00 sounds like a lot of money, based on the last financial crisis we will still be at a $700,000.00 shortfall. Our goal is to cut our budget by 1-2 million dollars. This will be done over time, but will have effects on staffing beginning next school year.

One of our goals is to maintain programs and keep class sizes relatively small during this financial crisis. Another goal is to make sure any tax increase is relatively small. As a school district, we have modestly increased school taxes over the past 10 years. The average increase over the last decade was 1.62%.

Despite New York State’s current financial crisis, we will continue to move forward making enhancements to educational programming. A major enhancement will happen this fall with the implementation of a new reading series Pre-k-6 th grade. Our District Strategic Plan will continue to drive our work to improve all outcomes for all students.

As a result of the new two building configuration for the 2020-21 school year Mr. Gleason will be the 7-12 Principal, Mrs. Mahoney will be the Elementary Principal, and Mr. Wren will be the Director of Athletics and Student Affairs. Our current Athletic Director, Mr. Scholl will be with the district until September 1, 2020.

During our April 22nd BOE meeting we will be discussing in greater detail how we plan on moving forward with the two building model. You can view the BOE meeting live by clicking on the link provided on our district web page.

Rest assured, we will get through this financial crisis together. We are confident we can continue to provide a high quality education to our students and this change will strengthen all programs for kids.

Respectfully,

Dr. Terry L. Ward
Superintendent of Schools

Cato-Meridian Board of Education
Mr. Paul Byrne, President
Mr. Mike Lees, Vice-President
Mrs. Kathy Bratt
Mrs. Kristin Cox
Mr. Tim Hulbert
Mrs. Carol Hunter
Mrs. Jenny Kyle 
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