OSWEGO, NY – On Wednesday morning, the Oswego board of education approved the budget for the coming school year 6-0-1 with member John Dunsmoor absent.
The $79,900,000 spending plan contains a 4 percent tax increase for the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2014.
It also calls for the closure of the Buc School located in the basement of the Education Center. The Big Picture School program isn’t being eliminated as the students will continue with the program in some manner as they are integrated back into the Oswego middle and high schools.
Board vice president Sam Tripp still has some reservations.
“The budget does financially what we need to do. I just want to state that I am not in favor of eliminating the Buc School. I know (business administrator) Nancy (Squairs) and (Superintendent) Ben (Halsey) have put a lot of hours into this budget and haven’t really had time to come up with a plan. Until I see that plan, I’m not in favor of throwing these kids back into a system that is already failing them,” he said.
Pam Dowd of the Leighton Home and School Association thanked the administrators and the board for their hard work on the budget.
“It is what it is. You can’t pluck dollars out of the air. You have to do the best thing you can with what you have to work with,” she said. “I appreciate all your time and effort; Nancy and Ben especially. Thank you all.”
“This is a difficult situation. There is not a perfect budget there. The board support of this budget means a lot to me as a superintendent. Now our task is to take these next few weeks and present it to the public in a way that they can understand it, and answer their questions so they feel informed to vote on it on May 20. I’m happy with the result today,” Halsey said following the meeting.
The superintendent added that he is confident that the Buc students will successfully make their way back into middle and high school life.
“I think those students and families that are currently in the Buc that are willing to work with us and give this transition a chance, I think they’re going to be pleasantly surprised with the result when they get into whether it be the middle school or the high school,” he said.
How the plan will actually look, he’s unsure right now.
He will be working with the building administrators and counselors to put together a transition team right away, including staff from the Buc, and start having meetings about what they can integrate into the regular flow of OMS and OHS and what changes may be needed to accommodate it all.
“So, those benefits the Buc students were receiving, might be able to be extended out to students that weren’t in the Buc. I know there is some great stuff going on in those buildings that students haven’t been exposed to either. So I really see this as a positive on both sides,” Halsey said. “And, financially, for us, over the long-haul, it’s going to be a lot more efficient.”
Convincing the Buc students to stick with the program is going to be a challenge, the superintendent admits.
“We’re going to want to make sure that we incorporate their thoughts, opinions and their concerns this spring. We’re going to start having these meetings this spring so when they leave in June they have a sense of comfort that when they come to school in September, it’s going to be OK,” he told Oswego County Today. “I understand that. They built a family relationship down there. But, they are still part of the Oswego City School District. That sense of community, that I know is strong here, we really need to make sure that they have that feeling when they walk in in September. I am confident that we can do it. We’ve got great people all over the place.”