Dozens Weigh In On School Budget Plan

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.

Members of Tuesday night's audience applauds a speaker's comments
Members of Tuesday night’s audience applauds a speaker’s comments

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.

One of the speakers shares her views on the potential budget cuts being considered.
One of the speakers shares her views on the potential budget cuts being considered.

“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.

From left" board vice president Sam Tripp, board president Kathleen Allen and superintendent Ben Halsey listen to what a speaker has to say Tuesday night.
From left: board vice president Sam Tripp, board president Kathleen Allen and superintendent Ben Halsey listen to what a speaker has to say Tuesday night.

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.


  1. When are these spoiled teachers going to realize we the taxpayers are broke?!! Huh?! When?! When we’re all gone?! make the cuts and then some!!!

  2. Dear Joe Taxpayer,

    I hope you realize that those “spoiled” teachers are taxpayers too. And if you are going to state that cutting funds for teaching is the best method, how about you consider the fact that starting a sentence with a lower-case “m” is an incomplete sentence. I would honestly pay MORE in my taxes to get your rear end back in the school than to see a teacher loose their job.

    Shame on you and your close-minded mentality.

    – A teacher AND A TAXPAYER

  3. Teachers know cuts are needed but we need to make the correct cuts. It’s easy to say take an axe to it but then what’s left? I, myself am looking at moving but in truth, the taxes here are comparable if not lower than the communities I’m looking at. Smart cuts are needed. Take emotions out of this and come up with a valid suggestion.

  4. When are people like Joe Taxpayer going to stop dumping budget woes at the feet of our teachers? The teachers are not the problem with this budget. They didn’t create this budget. They didn’t suggest a tax hike. They didn’t propose cutting their own jobs. These things all go to the administrators and politicians. How much of the money represented in this budget actually makes its way into the classrooms? How much waste could be cut out if an outside source reviewed the spending plan? How much better would our schools be if the Federal and State governments would prioritize education spending? I think an educator should adopt Joe Taxpayer for a month, let him see how spoiled you really are. Yes, we, the taxpayers are severely overburdened. So are our teachers. I’d rather subsidize education than pay for the growing list of government handouts, ridiculous prison perks, and the unearned salaries of politicians that do nothing to solve actual problems.

    I do agree with some of these proposed cuts. Several I find unacceptable. Constant cuts are not the answer though. You can only hack away so much before you’ve killed what you are trying to save.

    Just stop blaming the teachers and direct your ire towards those in charge of the money.

  5. As a parent of a Buc Jr. Sr. High student, I would like to state my strong support for this programsand what it has done to change the lives of its students and also its strong connection to the community through various internships and service programs. My son has made tremendous strides in not only his education, but also his self-confidence, social skills, and sense of personal responsibility. The few teachers that would be cut should this proposal become a reality do the work of twice the staff they represent and are innovative, demanding, and motivational individuals. Furthermore, my sophomore will be done with his high school courses at the end of the school year and should he be integrated into OHS next year, I can’t fathom what he would fill his days with for the next two years.

  6. Joe Taxpayer sounds more like Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life. There’s more to a community than money. Unity is perhaps the most important factor, and the BUC school was working hard to provide a community for kids who haven’t been able to find one. Taking that away from them just 2 years after they put their trust in it is going to be very damaging to these kids and their families, and is going to harden them AGAINST community.

    The gap must be covered, that’s for sure. But happily axing teachers as Mr. Taxpayer suggests is also a foolish alternative. You’re speaking of teachers who work long into the evenings, preparing lessons for their students and grading papers “off the clock”. Teachers who run out to the Dollar Store or Walmart at 11 pm to pick up classroom supplies (out of their own pocket), who scour their own homes for craft supplies, math manipulatives, and unit materials in order to best convey the details of a lesson without burdening the school with an extra expense. Teachers are NOT expendable.

    And to consider cutting the BUC school, the school psychologist, and the security department? I’ve never seen a more foolish suggestion. You’re going to attempt to reintegrate children who have had a very difficult time in public school back into the public school they left, without the support of trained conflict resolution staff? My mind is boggled the foolishness of this.

    The Superintendent has a difficult job to do – one I would never want to have to make, myself. But there has to be better alternatives. A district-wide “save our school” fundraiser could bring in a substantial amount. These children and families are currently MOTIVATED to provide a good or service to the community, to retain their teachers, programs, and school, and that’s a valuable learning opportunity. If every grade worked on a fundraising project of their own choosing, they could provide an array of interesting options to the community. Simple spaghetti dinners or a school play can each bring in more than $1,000 each, and every little bit helps.

    But attention needs to be paid to the little areas where the ship could be tightened up: how much “paper waste” is this school creating? Can that be eliminated, saving on office supplies? Are there any low-energy improvements that the school can make? Can local foods be purchased at a greater discount than trucking in the bulk of supplies from a large corporation like Aaramark? Perhaps the community and students could build their own school garden to provide their own fruits and vegetables. This is relatively inexpensive to set-up and would make a large dent in the cafeteria budget.

    I think before we start chopping away at teachers and alternative education programs for kids who desperately need it, we need to clean up as many small problem areas as we can, and then reexamine the gap.

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