Oswego Board Looking For More Budget Cuts

OSWEGO, NY – The superintendent’s fourth draft budget is less than the first three. However, the Oswego School Board wants even more cuts before they feel comfortable presenting the tentative spending plan to the public for approval.

At $83,742,675 the current budget proposal is $656,000 less than it was just a couple days ago. Total reductions stand at $2,595,920.

The budget proposal contains a 28.30 percent projected tax increase.

Board members want to see that increase drop below 10 percent.

“We need to get this under control. Let’s be serious, blunt,” board member Sam Tripp said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “Most of our cost is in salaries. We need to look at every option.”

Superintendent Ben Halsey said he’d go over the budget plan again and look for possible reductions and potential increases in revenue.

However, further cuts at this point, he cautioned, will be felt by the students and staff.

He will present another draft budget at 9 a.m. Thursday at the board room in the Education Center.

The superintendent said his budget strategy included staying true to the district’s mission as well as continuing to provide quality education, making reductions in areas not impacting programming when possible, maintaining reasonable class sizes, base the 2015-16 state aid on the legislative proposal, utilize $1,000,000 from the tax certiorari reserve and to stay within the tax levy limit for the district.

The district received a state aid increase of $2,228,063 excluding Pre-K revenue.

Several retirements factored into the budget process, including: an assistant principal, school monitor and two teaching assistants at the high school; a math teacher at the middle school; an elementary teacher and a teaching assistant at Kingsford Park; an elementary teacher and a teaching assistant at Leighton; two elementary teachers at Fitzhugh Park; and a teacher’s aide at Riley.

Retirements that won’t be replaced are: a technology teacher and a health teacher at the high school; and two phys ed teachers at the elementary level.

Halsey pointed out that a security guard position at the high school will be replaced by a School Resource Office, provided by the Oswego Police Department.

As per a deal with OPD for office space at the Education Center, this position will result in a projected savings of $15,789.

The superintendent’s proposal contains some additions due to where the 2014-15 budget may have “cut too deep,” he said.

The additions are an English teacher and social studies teacher at the high school; three elementary teacher aides; two team leaders; and an assistant transportation supervisor.

The board has until April 24 to adopt a budget proposal.

A public hearing on the proposed spending plan will be held at the board’s May 5 meeting, which is slated to be held at the OHS cafeteria.


  1. We need to get back to basics. We aren’t a luxury district now that the nuclear folks aren’t ‘sponsoring’ us. When I was in school, classrooms of 28-31 were not unheard of. I am saddened that we are losing the wonderful resource of ‘teacher’s assistants,’ because I believe when they work alongside a teacher, those students who have ‘difficulties,’ be they academic or behavioral, have needs that can be addressed,

    The one place we do NOT want to cut is teacher’s assistants, in my humble opinion. Often they are formally educated individuals who have a great deal to offer…with advanced degrees outside education. For the last twenty years, the trend at Oswego is to cut these valuable resources.

    Instead, cut some of the social activities. And YES, I DO understand that often they allow the teachers a chance to catch their breath when they have one or more ‘difficult’ students in the classroom…but they is why we desperately need teaching assistants.

    It’s sad to cut teachers, of course, but with a drop in enrollment, maybe that is the route to take. A couple more kids in a class, a teacher’s assistant maybe to share, and more emphasis on academics. Sadly, few Oswego kids will go on to be professional soccer players, runners, or even musicians. And we DO need those courses, but when I was in school, you had to be selected for those classes such as choir, music, etc., after the elementary grades.

    Two cents. And I acknowledge as a non-educator I only know what I know from my own (dated) past experience. But I went to a seriously challenged school district…Delaware School, Blodgett Vocational, and Syracuse Central Technical HS…and I was able to attend college, and even get an advanced degree (Thank you Rosamond Gifford Scholarship!)…A district NOT as challenged as mine SHOULD be able to provide a quality education without the bells and whistles we’ve become accustomed to with the monetary assistance of the Nuclear Industry!

  2. I don’t understand why, in an atmosphere where we are so far from finalizing a realistic budget, we’re creating positions like Assistant Transportation Supervisor. As long as I can remember there’s been a Transportation Supervisor that ran transportation for the school district. I know that in my business the manager’s continue to take on extra responsibility- which is generally understood with management positions. Actually, all the employees have taken on extra responsibilities to help keep costs manageable with riding health care cost and increasing minimum wage requirements. It seems logical not to “create” another position but to get the existing Supervisor to step and redistribute the work load in an effort to save money, not increase spending. And if the current Supervisor can’t do it, then there’s one out there that can! That’s where I’d start.

  3. The Superindedent should start with these items:
    1. Disallow mid-year retirements to save long-term sub costs.
    2. Disallow further 100% health insurance for new retirees and spouses.
    3. Change the retirement benefit of 100% health insurance for current retirees to cut costs associated.
    4. Open the OCTA contract and reduce paid time off to 5 paid days per year.
    5. Disallow paid time off immediately before or after paid school holidays or vacations to save sub costs.

  4. I have to raise a concern with the half truths that this superintendent is putting out there.

    First of all, let the record be crystal clear. The school district is looking to INCREASE its budget from $79.9 million to $80.3 million. Where is this word “cut” coming from? Do these people understand the definition of the word “reduction?” This dog and pony show happens every year. They throw in a bunch of fluff, threaten that the budget will be $6M higher, and then decide they will “cut” it down to a $3M increase. The school district is not looking to make ANY cuts! They still plan to increase the budget. If the superintendent says he made a single, solitary cut, he is lying, plain and simple.

    Secondly, the superintendent seeks to justify his tax and spend largesse by stating ““This increase on a $100,000 home will be refunded to the homeowner in the fall. Just like it was this year. That’s an important piece to keep in mind. Wherever we settle on a tax levy increase, we will be within our tax cap.” This is a half truth through and through. What he fails to mention is that the state property tax cap rebate is one time only. A tax rate increase, whether it be 10%, 28% or 40% stays with the taxpayer FOREVER! It may be easy for someone who feasts at the taxpayer trough to the tune of 6 figures with free platinum plus health insurance to make a ridiculous statement like this. But Mr. Halsey has no concept of the real world.

    Mr. Halsey is now rallying the “do it for the kids” crowd by threatening that more “cuts” that will impact the students. The fact of the matter is that there are multiple ways to ACTUALLY reduce the budget and reduce the cost to taxpayers without hurting the students. Firing administrators, and firing teachers while increasing the minutes per day that the remaining teachers actually spend in the classroom would result in multi-million dollar savings. Leveraging economies of scale in the elementary school configuration would save millions. (i.e. the K-6 model does not work. K-3 and 4-6 would be more efficient and would allow less staffing). And most importantly, FREEZE the pay of the staff, REDUCE the 50 grand starting salary for teachers out of college, and DOUBLE the staff’s minimal share that they must pay for their platinum plus health care!

    The other fact of the matter is that cutting all expenditures for sports programming would also save substantial money. First of all, the biggest cost here is the obscene coaching salaries that are paid. Second of all, many of the children who play the sports come from families of privilege. Institute a pay to play program. The children could still have sports programs, which do have value. But let the PARENTS pay, not me and the rest of the taxpayers! If a student qualifies for free or reduced lunch, I do not have a problem paying taxes for a reasonably priced sports program (i.e. cut the coach salaries). But if the parents have the means to pay, they should.

    Please folks, when election day comes, VOTE NO! Student enrollment is going down EVERY year while the budget goes up and up and up. It is up by $30 million over the past 10 years with 1000 less students. What does that tell you? It tells me that my school taxes go only to benefit the teachers and administrators who work half days for half the year. Go figure.

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