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By John Addyman

   NEWARK (Mar 28 11) – The Newark school board will host a budget forum this Wednesday night, starting at 6:30 p.m., to hear from community members about the 2011-12 school budget.
   Like all central New York school districts – and especially those in Wayne County – Newark is faced with closing a gap created by a dramatic reduction in state funding, on top of an initial unexpected reduction last year. The effect of that reneging of state funding has been jolting.

   As of the March 16 board meeting, Newark’s revenue/expenditure gap stood at $1.39 million – the difference between expected expenses and anticipated revenue. To level the budget playing field and bring spending in line with revenue, the district is likely to approach a three-prong solution: cost reductions including staff cuts, some use of the district’s reserve funds, and a tax increase. The board and administration have repeatedly stated that “everything is on the table” in consideration of options.
   Board President Roberta Colacino said the forum will be initially set up in the Large-Group Room where board meetings are held. If an overflow crowd arrives, the session will be moved to the auditorium quickly. Last year, five community members attended this forum; this year, with more on the line, there’s more of a community buzz about the meeting.
   Still, if the number of folks who come to the forum can be accommodated in the Large-Group Room, chairs will be set up in a U-shape “so that we can talk ad sit in a nice conversational grouping,” said Colacino.
   If the forum has a big turnout, “We will move into the auditorium where we will have microphones and people from the audience can come up to make comments or ask questions…as with regular meetings, we will ask that comments be limited to three minutes and that if there are any groups present, that the group chooses a speaker.” Colacino added that she will facilitate the forum.
   “Questions will be answered if at all possible,” she said. “Any questions that might take so long to answer that everyone might not have the opportunity to speak will be answered within 48 hours, directly to the person ask and, if appropriate, on the website for all to see.”
   She stressed the forum is to hear opinion and suggestions – it’s not a debate. “I will set some ground rules at the beginning of the forum,” Colacino said. 
   Most residents of the district have never been to a forum or to other board-hosted information-gatherings or “linkage” sessions. They are characteristically cordial, interesting and thought-provoking.   


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