Board Approves Budget, Speakers Oppose Sports Cuts

Chris Cote Jr. tells the board why he thinks sports are important to the district.

Chris Cote Jr. tells the board why he thinks sports are important to the district.

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego School Board Tuesday night approved the $79,510,611 budget proposal for the 2016-17 school year.

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Heidi Sheffield speaks to the board about what cuts in the English Department could mean for students.

It contains a 2.5% levy increase. For a $100,000 home that translates into an additional $52.98, or $4.42 a month, according to Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey.

The budget also contains many reductions; several support staff and teaching positions are on the block as well as a big chunk of the district’s athletic programs.

Prior to the board’s action, more than a baker’s dozen of speakers pleaded with the board to not cut the sports.

As a sixth grader, Chris Cote Jr. said he was looking forward to playing sports in middle school.

Chris Cote Jr. tells the board why he thinks sports are important to the district.
Chris Cote Jr. tells the board why he thinks sports are important to the district.

“If you take away modified sports it takes away many things. It will take away our school team pride. It will make a student feel like there is nothing for attending Oswego City Schools other than education,” he said.

Kira Hartnett also spoke against the sports cuts.

Sports teaches things like teamwork and responsibility, the OHS sophomore said.

It would be devastating to lose sports, another speaker told the board. Others added that kids won’t have any after-school supervision and will be on the streets getting into trouble.

Dylan Dunsmoor will be a seventh grader in the fall. He said he believes there are ways to come up with the money to maintain the sports programs. Many kids will switch to districts that have sports, he added.

“Because, for many people, sports are the highlight of their school experience,” he told the board.

People will leave the district due to the lack of sports, local businessman Atom Avery agreed. He encouraged the board to take a little out of the coffers sports.

Chuck Alford said he has had experience being on a school board, making tough budget decisions.

The idea of turning loose middle school kids 2:30 in the afternoon is just a little bit crazy,” he said. “You’re going to see property values go down. You’re going to see families that care about their kids leave this district. This whole community is going to suffer a very harsh lesson.”

A licensed mental therapist cautioned the board that cutting sports would have a negative impact on students inside and outside the classroom.

Heidi Sheffield spoke on behalf of the English Department at Oswego High School.

“While we understand the fiscal stress of our district, we don’t understand the loss of two English teachers plus a part-time teacher for AIS at the high school level,” she said.

The new Common Core social studies Regents exam will be based on reading and writing skills, she pointed out. The English Department should team teach with social studies, but will be unable if they lose more teachers, she said. Students won’t be able to get the help they need.

“It is the students who will suffer” because of these cuts, she said.

Pam Dowd noted sports are important and the district is “keeping a whole slew of them.”

She spoke in favor the middle school intramural program. All kids who want to play would be able to play, she pointed out.

“I don’t want to see anything cut, nor does anyone else,” she said, adding that if the board saves anything – it should be for the students in the classrooms. “Look ahead. When one door closes, another opens.  Let’s go through the opening. Let’s find the ways around the tough time. Everyone made valid points. It’s not all about sports. We can’t keep going the way we’ve been going or nobody’s going to be here in a couple three years.”

The board and Dr. Goewey have been working on the budget since late January – early February, board vice president Lynda Sereno pointed out.

“We have been very transparent,” Dr. Goewey added.

He said he wasn’t going to create havoc within the district by putting up potential budget cuts early in the process. They have done that in the past and when they get a little more state aid or find other revenue they put some stuff back. But then, they might take it out again later, he added.

That is why he waited until later this year to present the likely cuts.

The budget is a revenue based budget, he said, adding that the district can’t spend money that it doesn’t have.

The public vote on the budget is set for May 17 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.