OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Members of the Oswego School Board told the administrators what kind of budget they’d like to see for the 2010-11 school year Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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 anythingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦” 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.