OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego School Board will present its trimmed down version of the 2011-12 draft budget to the administration by the end of the week.
According to board vice president John Dunsmoor, chair of the BOE’s finance committee, the tentative budget might include a two percent tax levy increase.
It won’t, however, close any school building in the district, he added.
District officials are working with an estimated preliminary rollover budget of $79,672,717.
“We’re going to channel things through the finance committee. It’ll be up to the finance committee to take the initiative to put together a budget that we feel that the board’s going to accept,” Dunsmoor said. “I feel that by the end of this week we should give some direction to (the superintendent and business manager).”
The board is facing a large budget gap for the coming school year, he cautioned.
“We’re hoping, as a board, to close the gap. But, there isn’t a lot of room. As of right now, my suggestion would be to look at a two percent tax increase, possibly bump up the appropriated fund balance some, or hope that maybe revenues come in better than we expect,” he said. “But then again, if they don’t, we know we’re going to tap our reserves.”
If that happens, he continued, there would still be a $5 million gap.
It would be up to the administrators to come up with a way to further reduce the spending plan, he said.
Some of the board members said they’d like to see the proposed budget come in around $74 million.
The majority of the board is opposed to closing a school.
“We should at least take a look at it,” said board president Dave White.
“As far as this budget calendar is concerned, we’re not going to waste time on it right now,” Dunsmoor replied. “We’re not going to go there. We’re going to come up with a direction for our administrators to make good decisions.”
“Obviously, nobody at this table wants to cut a thing,” he continued. “But when you can’t pay the bill, you’ll have to do something.”
He suggested using more of the reserves to cover any shortfall in state aid next year.
Board member Fran Hoefer said he objects to raising taxes.
“I know you do. But we gotta talk the majority of the board,” Dunsmoor said.
Hoefer will have a chance to try and change anything in the budget the finance committee brings forward, the vice president told him.
“Our goal is to bring something to the board that is going to be accepted,” Dunsmoor said.
“We’re one of the poorest counties in the country. We cannot absorb any more taxes,” Hoefer exclaimed. “Our people can’t bear it. We’re killing people; we’re driving people away, kicking people out of their homes, we’re starving our children, we’re taking the shoes off their feet, clothes off their back. Six years ago when I was thrown off this board we were spending $10,000 per child, now we’re pushing $20,000. Six years and double the cost per child; what the hell is going on?”
“I share your frustrations, Franny. But over the years, I’ve learned that we can’t really do a lot about that. We need help from the state to do something. It’s not just Oswego, we’re not the only ones in this boat,” Dunsmoor said. “I wish we could correct it. But that’s not something you can correct overnight.”
“What we have to do is stop doing what we’ve always done,” Hoefer said. “What we’ve always done is every year increase every budget line everywhere. We take the money because we can.”
The board will continue to wrestle with the budget process at its Jan. 12 meeting.