OSWEGO, NY – Oswego City School District Superintendent of Schools Ben Halsey updated the board of education and the public on the 2014-15 budget situation during Tuesday night’s board meeting in the OHS cafeteria.
And then, about three dozen speakers let him know what they thought of his tentative spending plan as well as the potential cuts it includes.
The district’s projected revenue for the next school year is $79.8 million and projected expenses are $81.5 million – a gap of $1.7 million.
Halsey’s spending plan would increase a four percent tax increase.
To close that gap, he is proposing cutting nine positions from the high school; seven teachers, a school counselor and the weight room supervisor. That would mean a savings of $887,099.
The Buc School is also another possible budget causality.
Eliminating the alternative school (all nine positions associated with it and associated costs) would result in a savings of $762,368.
Other possible reductions include two elementary teaching positions ($208,000), a clerical position at the middle school ($39,336) and 3.3 positions at the Transportation and Education centers – a mechanic, purchasing clerk, microfilm operator and a .3 director of literacy ($233,991).
All together, the savings would be $2,130,794, Halsey said.
He also proposed possible “efficiency reductions.”
These would include things like a reduction in board travel, athletic trainer overtime, reduction of modified soccer teams from four to two, reduction of two custodial vacancies and other things for a savings of $378,983.
Other potential reductions on the superintendent’s radar include a special education teacher, a school psychologist, the theater director and theater manager, 14 teaching assistants, five custodians, the play therapist, the director of security and there security officers among others.
That would result in a savings of $2,078,648.
“These reductions are, I think, worth looking at. This list was generated through discussions, brainstorming with individuals, some of my own input and input form others who have been in the district for along time … They are a working, rolling list,” Halsey told the standing-room-only crowd. “It is a working document. It is not a formal proposal.”
All of the reductions amount to $4,588,425. The gap is $1.7 million, he pointed out.
“That gives us room to prioritize, to listen and discuss amongst each other what it is that we value going forward,” he said. “That gap is under the assumption of a four percent tax increase. We have to discuss as a community and as a school board and administration if we want to close that gap and leave the tax levy or lower the tax increase. We have lots of choices.”
The board and administration will discuss their options prior to the next meeting, in which they are likely to approve the budget they will present to the voters in May.
Several speakers Tuesday night spoke out against cutting the weight room supervisor. He would drop everything to help athletes and everyone else, they said.
The Big Picture (Buc) School received vigorous support from students as well as parents.
Speakers referred to the school as a family. They cited the safe and happy environment there. Many of the speakers said they would have dropped out of school if it hadn’t been for the Buc school. They said they didn’t know why the school was targeted, since it is only in its second year and has performed better than expected.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be able to make it without this school,” one Buc student told the board.
“This school teaches real world skills,” another said. “Cutting it would be a huge mistake.”
“It is a school of excellence,” according to Sue Sweet. “I’m proud to have a school like that in this city.”
Jim Jackson, who represents the district’s support staff, questioned why the district is considering laying off support when it hasn’t reduced the size of any of its facilities.
“I look at this and I think, ‘how do you justify cutting our numbers when there’s been no change to the district’s dynamics other than enrollment?’ I just don’t get it,” he said.
Others spoke about the importance the theater and the two positions. Cutting the positions would severely damage the theater and have a ripple affect on all the students, as well as the community members who use the facility, they said.
Several speakers pointed out that cutting the security positions would put students and staff at risk.
The superintendent applauded the speakers, especially the students, for stepping up and sharing their concerns with the board.