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Oswego School Board Continues Budget Debate

OSWEGO, NY – Members of the Oswego School Board told the administrators what kind of budget they’d like to see for the 2010-11 school year – one with at least a zero tax rate increase, preferably, a tax reduction.

At Tuesday’s budget workshop, board members also heard from the transportation and buildings and grounds department heads in regard to their budgets.

Board member Fran Hoefer said he’d like to start off by looking at the money the district actually spent and build a budget from that.

“I really don’t want to look at ‘Twilight Zone’ figures. I want to look at real numbers that are based on some kind of reality,” he said.

Board member Dave White suggested starting by looking at the class sizes in K-3, 4-6 and so on.

“Then you’re going know how many staff we’re going to need, then we have to decide what do we absolutely have to provide?” he said. “What’s the minimum we need to have to provide a bare bones education?”

That would be a good starting figure, he said.

Hoefer agreed White’s approach would be “logical.”

“I don’t agree with starting off with talking about cutting staff. We are in the business of educating kids. We need to look at the things we don’t need to educate kids,” board member Tom DeCastro said. “We can look at saving millions of dollars by cutting extra school activities; they do not affect the learning process, we don’t layoff any teachers, nobody’s losing any jobs.”

Board member John Dunsmoor continued to point out some reserve funds could be used to help par down the budget.

Jim Tschudy, board vice president, noted that reserves are an important safeguard in all budgets.

If money is used from a reserve account, it won’t be available the next year, he cautioned.

Peter Colucci, the district’s business manager, said they have laid out every piece of information regarding the budget to enable the board to make informed decisions and give the Central Office direction as the budget process continues to unfold.

“We’ve squeezed (the budget) a lot more than we ever did before,” he told the board. “I can assure you, that as the person that’s in charge of the beans and building the budget, that you will have as much information this year as you did last year as you start to move on making decisions.”

They have received feedback, he said, that in a lot of ways the board hasn’t been privy to some of the issues, modifications and sacrifices that the district supervisors and administrators have either recommended or just dealt with or not gotten that they think their programs deserve, he continued.

“This is a cooperative process. There are tough decisions to make, and we’re all going to make them together,” he said.

“A $77 million appropriation budget for next year is something out of the ‘Twilight Zone’ and I’m sorry, I’m sorry that is absolutely ridiculous,” Hoefer said. “We have an impoverished community that is getting worse by the second.”

They have to deal with layoffs and possibly making kids walk four blocks instead of two, Hoefer said.

The budget, as described by the district officials, makes no sense and confuses him, Hoefer told Colucci.

“I have no idea what is going on,” Hoefer said. “I need to know what we’ve spent and what we can cut.”

What the business manager shared with the board is very important, Tschudy pointed out.

“I realize that. But what he is saying, he’s trying to confuse me,” Hoefer replied.

“He’s not trying to confuse you,” Tschudy said. “He’s trying to cast light on the process that we’re in the midst of.”

“We’re not dealing with reality. We’re dealing with an educational budget that has not had any contact with the real world for years,” Hoefer said. “There is no room for a tax increase.”

“I think Pete is right. The board had a lot of information (about the budget for 2009-10). We had information that allowed the board to make some decisions, we made some cuts,” Board President Sam Tripp said. “Right now, we need to see what they’re going to present first, and then we make our decision.”

“What I’m saying is I want to look at how much we spent not what we budgeted,” Hoefer said.

“We did that last year,” Colucci said.

“Well then I want to see it this year,” Hoefer said.

“You will,” Colucci assured him.

“I’m not accusing you of anything…” Hoefer continued.

“Yes, you did. When you said I was trying to confuse you, I very politely said the process you are using is not accurate,” the business manager explained.

Hoefer persisted that he wanted to know what was used, not budgeted, so he could build on that.

The board tentatively scheduled its next budget workshop for Feb. 9, followed by another on Feb. 23.

5 Comments

  1. well, unlike the fulton school board, it kind of looks like the oswego school board is representing the people who elected them. the school administrators in fulton seem to be lead
    ing the school board around by their noses. fulton builds its schools, lets them go to heck by not replacing things as they go down and then hits the taxpayer with a hike in taxes,

  2. The problem that the district faces is the 22% raise contract. The district needs to lay off a substantial number of teachers. The ball was in OCTA’s court when it was contract negotiation time. They chose raises and the consequence should therefore be the sacrifice of their young.

    The contract, thank the lord, expires next year, and we need to focus on getting the right people on the board to fight to the death against pay raises. If the teachers do not get pay raises anymore, our budget problems will be nonexistant. Jim Tschudy voted for the 22% and he is up for election this year. Sean Madden voted for Superintendent raises in July and he is up for election this year.

    We have a strong group in Hoefer, Tripp and Dunsmoor who oppose raises for staff. We need 2 good warriors to join them in May. These raises increase the budget by about a million dollars each year. This is absolute insanity. Education in Oswego is fixated entirely around the appalling greed of Oswego’s teachers and Superintendents. We need more people like Fran, Sam and John who choose to make it about the kids and getting the taxpayers a good return on their investment.

  3. Hoefer’s approach seems common sense to me. The budget process is going to be longer and more difficult if board member’s requests have to go through a discussion process and the administration’s confusion tactics. Good job, Hoefer. Keep it real.

  4. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY: ALL TAXPAYERS NEED TO CONTACT THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS IMMEDIATELY!!!

    Fran Hoefer has announced that Bill Crist is requesting a $4260 PAY RAISE! Yes, that is right, after they announced a 30% tax increase, this man now wants a pay raise.

    Bill is truly a piece of work if I have ever seen one.

    CONTACT THE BOARD MEMBERS AND TELL THEM TO SAY “HELL NO” TO THIS MAN’S GREEDY DESIRES!

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