OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Getting back to some fundamental principles can save millions of dollars, an Oswego school board member claims.
At Tuesday’s Board of Education meting, Fran Hoefer raised the concern that the state is considering making significant budget reductions regarding schools before this school year concludes.
“Whether it’s going to happen or not, we don’t know. But there is a real good chance that the money is drying up,” he said.
“We have monitoring that very closely,” Superintendent Bill Crist replied.
The district has contacted its representatives in the state legislature and senate regarding their concerns about “major cuts and what that could do to our school district and community,” he added.
The district is working on a plan while it watches what happens at the state level, Crist said.
“It is important to watch what happens with the legislature (before implementing the plan) because it could or could not impact how we move forward into the next school year and certainly how we finish this school year as early as December or January if they do vote on major cuts,” he said.
The district is facing an earthquake followed by a tsunami followed by a tornado, according to Hoefer.
“We need to start preparing for economic difficulty,” he said.
“At the federal level and state level we can’t continue to do business the way we’re doing,” Crist agreed. “Every school district in the state falls victim to some of what’s happening in Albany and at the federal level as well. Some of our legislators are saying by imposing mid-year cuts, that could significantly have an impact on property taxes at the local level.”
“We have got to start talking about fundamentals,” Hoefer pointed out.
He noted that there are 11,933 properties in the school district.
The tax delinquent properties amount to 1,729.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all homeowners,” he said. “But a significant portion of them are homeowners. That’s one in seven; which is alarming to me, it’s terrifying to me that one in seven of our properties are tax delinquent. The numbers are worse this year. This is significant, this is dangerous.”
The data doesn’t show those that waited until the last minute or paid their taxes late, the superintendent said.
The district needs to somehow deal with this issue, Hoefer said.
“When we are drawing up our budget for next year we cannot consider raising property taxes,” Hoefer said. “We are facing a community that already cannot pay anymore.”
The district has an obligation to try and help the community as well as educate its students, he said.
“We have the ability to correct this problem by being efficient, effective and affordable. I’m not here just flapping my lips, I’ve got ideas on how to make us more efficient, effective and more affordable, which I’m working up to.”
As Hoefer continued to lay out his foundation, board member Dave White interjected, “We come here and then you complain about how long we’re taking (for the meetings), if you have a suggestion how we can save some money tell me what it is.”
“Let me get there, dude,” Hoefer responded. “I am very organized and this is well thought out . . . let me finish, dude.”
The district can do some reasonable things to reduce costs, he noted. He suggested tightening the student Ã¢â‚¬â€œ teacher ratio and more time on task for teachers.
By doing these things, the district can look at a budget that is $8 million to $10 million lower than what it is currently operating on, according to Hoefer.
“I ask you to, please, look at the catastrophe that our community is facing! And look at the consequences of not doing what is eminently, utterly, sanely reasonable,” he said.
The district will be looking at all options as the budget process gets into high gear, the superintendent said.
One move that could have a big impact on upcoming budgets is the potential sale of the district’s office building.
A committee has been looking at possible sites in the district’s schools that could possibly house the central offices in the event the Education Center is sold.
The superintendent will provide board members with an update at an upcoming meeting regarding the effort to find a buyer for the East First Street riverfront property.
The realtor involved will come to the board’s December meeting to provide further information regarding any potential buyers, Crist told the board.
Board President Sam Tripp scheduled a workshop for early next month to examine the possibility of changing teachers’ schedules from five to six periods.
The board is also considering how it conducts meetings.
White revisited his plan to conduct committee meetings prior to regularly scheduled BOE meetings.
“Personally, I think that we could have answered a lot of questions we had tonight if we’d had committee meetings. We’d all already have that information. The way things are going right now with the stated, I just think we need to find a little better way to get a grip on things,” White told the other board members.
The likely committees would be personnel, finance, buildings-grounds and policy.
“We could accomplish a lot more with a committee system,” White said.
Everything from the committee level would be sent to everybody, White explained.
The board will look into the feasibility of the proposal and possibly implement something around the first of the year.