OSWEGO, NY â€“ Unless things change again â€“ 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 â€“director of grants and partnerships, director of security and an OHS assistant principalÂ – ($233,159), .5 part-time hourly custodian position ($18,998), one buildings and grounds position ($45,985), various assistant coaches â€“ 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.