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Norwood-Norfolk holding second community budget forum

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NORFOLK - The Norwood-Norfolk Central School District will hold its second and final community budget forum Wednesday night, and they want to make sure those who attend understand what the district is facing as they craft their 2013-14 budget.

“We want to make sure when we give the presentation, that it’s very clear what we’re talking about,” Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie said.

She said there appeared to be a misunderstanding about some budget issues during the first community forum in January, which drew six participants. Among them, she said was how much savings they could see by eliminating the middle school, and they want to ensure that the potential savings from any possible cuts are clearly laid out for the participants this time.

A focus of Wednesday’s forum will be to provide board of education members with information they need when deciding what, if any cuts need to be made in the 2013-14 budget proposal.

“We’re going to insert an activity that gives us the information that we need without short-cutting the discussion or having to redirect it,” Mrs. Kirnie said. “It’s so important that the board understand the priorities of the community with enough depth that they can act on them when the tough decisions need to be made.”

She said while individuals are welcome to share whatever concerns they have “the board needs specific information on prioritizing.”

To get that information, she said they plan to have an exercise at the beginning of the evening in which they’ll ask individuals to list what they consider priorities, based on data provided by school officials.

“It will be a list of things that we hope is comprehensive, but listing the very things that the board will have to decide. Then we’ll have some data that we will be able to sort out and use,” Mrs. Kirnie said.

For instance, she said, participants might rank sports as a higher priority and say they’d be willing to pay more to maintain those programs.

“There are no good choices,” she said. “The more people that attend, the stronger the message will be for the board.”

Following that, they plan to break the individuals down into groups if there’s enough participation from the community. Because only six individuals attended the first session, the evening was an open forum rather than group sessions.

“We really appreciated having the six who attended in January because they gave good information. They were very thoughtful in their comments, but it’s difficult to generalize from six people to the entire community. The more that show up the clearer the message for the board,” Mrs. Kirnie said.

This time around, she said, “We still plan to divide into groups if we have enough people, even if we have enough for two tables. I would say if we have 10 or 12 people we will separate into smaller groups. Then it becomes a lot freer when the discussions happen at the tables.”

Rather than sending out invitations, she said they’ve opted to phone individuals who were asked to attend last year’s forums and invite them to Wednesday’s session. The forum is open to everyone though.

“We’ve been calling people that were on the list for last year. Mailings can be expensive, and we’re being very mindful of costs,” she said,.

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