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Oswego School Board Set To Vote On Budget Plan

OSWEGO, NY – Unless things change again – the Oswego school board will vote next week on a budget plan for the 2010-11 school year.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Superintendent Bill Crist presented budget option three, a tweaked version of what board members said at last week’s meeting that they wanted to see.

According to option three:

No schools will be closed

Elementary class size, K-2, will be between 20 to 22 while the 3-6 will be 23 to 25 students. At that time, the board will entertain the request for additional staffing.

No new hires at 7-12 until each teacher has the responsibility for a minimum of 110 students to a max of 125 in regular education programs.

Jobs will be reduced through retirements or employees who leave for another position outside the school district.

Money to make up the gap and to reach a zero percent tax levy difference will come from reserves and surplus.

Crist’s proposed $74,916,774.30 spending plan would eliminate some positions.

At the elementary level, 14 classroom teachers would be cut for a savings of $1,071,141.

Reductions at the middle school level would include: a technology position ($73,219), a math position ($61,712), a social studies position ($93,168), a science position ($61,204), and an ELA position ($105,403).

At Oswego High School, a math position ($63,817), .4 social studies position ($37,670), two science positions ($149,219), one ELA position ($74,203), a reductions in clubs ($36,061), a foreign language position ($75,945), reducing two theater positions to 10 months ($14,537), and one clerical position ($25,739) are all on the block.

Over at the Education Center, a teacher on assignment position ($53,952) would be cut as well as three administrator positions –director of grants and partnerships, director of security and an OHS assistant principal  – ($233,159), .5 part-time hourly custodian position ($18,998), one buildings and grounds position ($45,985), various assistant coaches – athletics ($64,682) and two part-time cleaners ($46,117).

The plan would retain the “neighborhood school” concept, Crist said, adding that some students would be moved to different schools to hit the targeted class sizes.

“So, there will be some redistricting, if you will,” he said.

The number of retirements in the district could change the number of positions cut, Crist noted.

The rest of the gap would be made up from the reserves, the superintendent said.

He cautioned that the district needs to keep its reserves and surplus at adequate levels for the future.

“The use of surplus and reserves does a couple things. It creates a need for matching funds in future years. Also, once those funds are depleted, either surplus or reserves, they can no longer sustain the need for revenue that they provided,” Crist pointed out. “It’s important to recognize that if you continue to deplete reserves, it’s a finite amount and it doesn’t sustain itself and you have to be cautious about how you use it.”

If the proposal is voted down by the public, the district will need to find $2.2 million more in additional cuts if they go to a contingency budget, Crist said.

Seven speakers came to the microphone during the public session; most spoke directly to budget issues.

During the public session, the board was urged to reconsider reducing the theater staff at OHS. They were also reminded of the need for things like athletics and art/music classes.

Sam Sugar, a candidate for school board, said the board was looking at seven administrative cuts recently; and now it is down to three.

“I want to see seven administrative cuts, not just two or three,” he said.

The district needs to budget for more than one year to avoid the crisis mode it seems to be in every year, he added.

Former principal and school board member Bob Stone also said more administrative cuts could be made, including the assistant superintendent for curriculum, the directors of math and literacy.

He thanked the board for not repurposing Leighton Elementary. The administrative offices, he said, could be dispersed into vacant areas of various schools.

Bob Nelson spoke in favor of keeping the assistant coaching positions as they are.

“If we need to cut positions next year, I’ll help you out with that. I’m a team player,” he told the board. “But, to cut the position after the season has already started, doesn’t give me time to fix things.”

At board member Dave White’s urging, the district will consider hiring an independent outside consultant to examine the district’s schools and determine which one, if any, might be a candidate for closure and/or repurposing.

They would do the research over the summer and conclude their report in October or November, in time for consideration in the 2011-12 budget planning process.

The board is set to vote on the budget at its April 13 meeting. The public vote will be held on May 18.

14 Comments

  1. “If the proposal is voted down by the public, the district will need to find $2.2 million more in additional cuts if they go to a contingency budget, Crist said.”

    That’s all I need to know! I’m voting no! In voting no, we will see reduced taxes by further cuts and reserves being given back to us. A 74 million dollar budget is unacceptable.

  2. Kelly,
    By cutting $2.2 million in expenses as they would be forced to do under contingency budget, they will also cut $2.2 million in revenue, either by cutting back on reserves or cutting back on taxes.

    Either way, if the voters say yes, the board will build off of a $74.9 million budget for the 11-12 school year. If we say no, they go to a $72.7 million budget and build off of that for 11-12. I would rather them build off of a smaller budget going forth, with more appropriate and smaller levels of spending. I will cast my no vote in hopes that it results in the closing of a school for the 10-11 school year, in hopes that it results in more teacher layoffs, and in hopes that it reduces the cost to taxpayers for subsidizing fun and games in the form of school sports.

  3. Yes, people just vote NO.

    Let’s cut everything! Load the classes up to 30 -35 per class! (I wonder how much the test scores will improve then?) Get rid of any non mandated classes or programs that the kids might actually enjoy! (I’m sure those kids on the edge will just sprint to school everyday! Improving those graduation rates!)

    Who cares about any advantages that our schools might be able to provide for the children of Oswego.

    The most important thing here is: MONEY. Some people are not even happy with ZERO tax increase.

    All the miserable bitter people who are unhappy in their careers, should go back to school, spend nights and weekends in the library for years, take on huge student loans, and become a teacher. It’s a real gravy job. Then you too can become a target for every social, economic issue in your community.

    Oh yes, first they may try and learn to deal with their own kids before trying to manage a classroom full and actually deliver some relevant content.

  4. Why are the taxpayers supposed to be pleased with a budget that is 6 million dollars higher than it was last year? By using 7 million dollars worth of reserves, the board is saying that in the future, they either will increase taxes by more than 25%, or make an equivalent amount worth of cuts. I would rather the cuts be made now while I have a board member that I trust with Fran Hoefer, who I know will stand for no tax levy increase. If we keep putting this off, we give OCTA the opportunity to stack the school board with bobbleheads who will just pass on the buck to the taxpayers. That cannot be done. Given the budget shortfalls due to the irresponsible 22% raise given to the teaching staff, plus their outrageous and undeserved health and retirement benefits, I expected much deeper cuts than what was provided. Our teachers are the ones benefitting from the current budget increases, and therefore should also be the ones to take the hit.

    The amount that I pay in taxes, for the lousy education that our OCTA and administrators provide, is unacceptable. I’d expect a top notch education for paying $2500 in taxes but thias school system’s teaching and administrative staff and their performance is just awful all the way around. The programs that the OCSD puts into place do not work. It has been shown that more money is not the answer. I sure as hell would like a tax cut, and I will be voting no to get it. The answer is not more money, but the answer is chaning the way they spend our money.

    Vote no May 18.

  5. This is a great idea! The board is giving the community ONE year to decide what is the best direction to take. This isn’t unreasonable given the magnitude of the decision. To all those pressing to close a school, there won’t be ANY building shut down. All they are proposing to do is repurpose a school. This means moving the ed offices (again), remodeling space to house the ed offices (again), and adding some new programs at the high school and middle school levels (some of which sound very promising by the way-but don’t have to be housed in an old elementary school. Think of your 14 or 15 year old using facilities sized for a 6 or 7 year old-yup, more remodeling.) So, please keep in mind-the administration never suggested turning off the lights and locking the doors.
    We do have a struggling school district but I have seen it get better and better in the 10 years since my 9th grader started kindergarden. There is every reason to be optimistic. I am proud of the tone of the discussion during the board meetings.

  6. I agree, vote YES. This is a good budget with allowing some time to evaluate the elementary school situation. For those who plan on voting no, put your house up for sale and move. Nearly every place around is increasing taxes, while Oswego is maintaing zero percent increase.

  7. I have two very logical reasons why I am voting NO this year

    1) I cannot afford a 25% tax increase in a future year. The amount of reserves they are using is equal to 25% of the tax levy. Once those reserves run out, they have the choice of making cuts or raising taxes to fill the gap. I don’t know who will be on the board when that time comes, so I don’t want to take my chances. If this budget passes, the board will have the option open to raise taxes by 25%. I would rather have the budget fail and force $2.2 million in cuts so that when the reserves run out, if the board chooses to fill the gap by raising taxes, it would not be as hard of a hit.

    2) I do not support Oswego’s teachers or their union OCTA. While I recognize that our overpaid and underworked teachers will get their 4% raise regardless of the budget situation next year, I also recognize that contract negotiations begin this summer. The board, led by Fran Hoefer, is prepared to go into the negotiations accepting nothing less than a wage freeze and increased contributions by teachers to the health care and retirement systems. Brian Haessig is prepared to go into the negotiations demanding another 22% raise. OCTA and the district will never settle. It will have to go to an independent arbitrater to decide what happens. In presenting their argument to the arbitrater, if this budget fails, the board can point out that the community has rejected 3 of the last 4 budget proposals and does not have the ability to support finanial largesse or massive raises. If you are not an Oswego teacher or married to one, you absolutely should be voting no in order to prevent them from stealing any more of our hard earned money. It is all of their perks that cause this current budget problem, and for all the money that they get, they work for a grand total of 3 and a half hours a day and 160 days a year. Anyone who works for a living and has a real job should be outraged at the money these people are paid to do next to nothing. This needs to stop, and we can contribute to taking back our community by voting no, it will be step one in denying raises and bringing our teachers closer to the real world.

  8. Amanda, your points are completely untrue.
    1. You don’t fully understand how budgets, surplus, reserves and revenues work. You should not be throwing out information that you don’t understand.
    2. Prove where OCTA has demanded another 22% raise. On syracuse.com, OCTA offered concessions and the board said-no thanks.
    As usual, you are not telling anything nearly like the truth.

  9. OCTA offered to exchange a 4% raise over 1 year for an 8% raise over 3 years. That’s not a concession when the school board intends to freeze their salaries after the current contract expires. They offered a concession with strings attached so that they could manage to steal more from the taxpayers. Amanda is right, the contract negotiations will probably go to arbitration, and by voting down 3 of the last 4 budgets, we will be able to show the arbitrator that this tax base of homeowners can no longer afford the outrageous greed of Oswego’s teachers. The taxpayers need any upperhand in the negotiations that we can get, and voting down the budget gives us an upper hand.

  10. Of course, any arbitration will also take into account raises that every other school district has promised their employees. This is the exact wisdom that lead the West Genesse board to accept a similar concession. Role the dice…this board is already set to lose millions of dollars in the grievance the teachers will win for the boards ridiculous and arrogant decision to break their contract.

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