OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego School Board held the second of a series of budget workshops Tuesday night. Several board members are encouraging district administrators to chop nearly $5 million from the preliminary estimate of $79,672,717 for the coming school year.
“What you have in front of you is a rollover budget,” Superintendent Bill Crist said. “This is preliminary, I stress preliminary. There is nothing saying this is the budget (for 2011-12).”
Board member Fran Hoefer referred to the district’s budgets as a “runaway train.”
“We’ve got an average daily attendance of 3,800 kids and a $75 million budget right now. We’re probably going to have 3,600 next year and a budget of $80 million,” Hoefer said. “That’s $20,000 per child when we were operating on $10,000 a child five years ago. This budget process is a runaway train. It’s all based on taking more than we had the year before.”
“We’re creating a problem by running loose with spending,” he added.
“This isn’t a proposed budget. It is a rollover budget,” said Pete Colucci, the Assistant Superintendent for Business. “It will be cut.”
The (2010-11) rollover budget was $78.7 million “and we stripped it out. We made significant cuts last year,” he pointed out.
The budget approved by the voters this past May was $74.8 million.
Board members said they want to get together with administrators, get input from them and also give them direction as to what the board wants to see in a final budget plan.
It was suggested that the board could continue its budget discussion at next week’s meeting.
Board President Dave White said he would rather set aside a time dedicated to only budget discussions.
After a lengthy debate, the board decided on a schedule of dates later this month and into early next year.
The superintendent will present his proposed 2011-12 spending plan to the school board at its March 22 meeting.
Prior to the workshop, the board heard from two Syracuse University officials regarding the possibility of closing a school and/or reconfiguring the district.
Dr. Scott Shablak, director of the Office of Professional Research and Development and Dr. Frank Ambrosie of the School of Education condensed information from the studies the district has done this past decade as well as those that were on file and presented them in a 20-page report.
There were some things they found that should be enhanced and some things that should have been part of the previous reports but were left out.
The SU pair told the board, that in this process, they should be “doing the right things and doing things right.”
According to their report, that means having up-to-date, grade-by-grade, building-by-building multi-year enrollment data for the K-12 student population as well as a five-year enrollment projection and a rated capacity study of the remaining school buildings to ascertain if they can absorb the student population of a closed school.
Other recommendations included a plan showing age and condition of all buildings; determining which remaining schools will receive the population; identifying what impacts these changes could have on the quality of instructional programs; and planning and deciding in a timely fashion.
Everyone affected by the board’s plan must be considered and their concerns heard, the consultants added.
“I’m probably the only guy here that would close a school; if that’s the most logical thing to do, White said Tuesday night. “The support is not here to close a school.”
According to Shablak and Ambrosie, the superintendent and board of education need to identify and prioritize the criteria that will drive their discussions around the following decision points:
- Closing and relocating the Education Center
- Identifying a grade configuration
- Closing a school
- Future use of current unused space in all schools
- Redrawing elementary school enrollment boundaries