OSWEGO, NY ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ The board of education gathered briefly Thursday evening to discuss its options regarding the budget for the coming school year.
Last month, voters said no (1,956 to 1,392) to a budget proposal that had a 3.81 percent increase.
On Tuesday, voters shot down the district’s second budget proposal by almost as much (1,666 to 1,133). That spending plan put back two elementary art teachers, two elementary music teachers, one phys ed teacher, one elementary librarian, one high school technology teacher and three part-time hall monitors. The tax rate, however, jumped to 5.81 percent.
At its meeting Thursday night, the board directed the administration to go back to the drawing board and prepare two drafts. One would show what the budget would be like with a 4.7 percent tax hike and the other reflected a 3.5 percent hike.
The district will refrain from buying equipment (unless for health and safety reasons), not purchase new band uniforms and not fill a vacant administrator’s position at the middle school.
A current administrator could be moved to assist with the duties at OMS, according to David Fischer, superintendent.
“Since we put the budget out to vote, we are leasing space in the ed center,” he added. “That will generate approximately $60,000 in terms of revenue.”
Taken collectively, that would mean a budget with a tax rate increase of about 4.7 percent, he said.
Board member Fred Maxon suggested going back to the original budget plan and applying the changes to it and lower the tax rate that way.
Board member-elect John Dunsmoor proposed coming up with a dollar figure and direct the superintendent and assistant superintendent to come up with an idea of what should be cut.
He also pointed out that with Fischer leaving for a new job next month, the district would have an interim superintendent, likely for about a year, at a lower salary.
Board member Dave White didn’t want cuts at the elementary level.
“If we don’t provide the kid in the elementary school with a good education, we’re gonna lose him. I don’t think (voters) turned this down to come back here and say they wanted us to cut the elementary school positions,” he said.
Board member Jim Tschudy said he would support the proposed changes, but nothing more.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThat would allow us to retain the elementary positions that I think are important for us at this point,” he explained. “I would rather that we not do something impulsive at this point that would weaken our structure at the high school.”
“We’re gonna have to start looking at this stuff, whether we like it or don’t like it. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that we have to teach children,” White said.” So, we have to decide where that money’s going. I think we can get down to a reasonable amount.”
A lot of the people who supported the budget were in favor of keeping programs, Dunsmoor said.
“The people who voted yes still need to be heard, too,” he said.
He proposed a compromise using the changes suggested Thursday night to provide for maybe half the positions that were would have been reinstated if the June 17 budget was approved.
That way, he said, it would show the district was serious about maintaining programs, and would show taxpayers the district was still willing to make some cuts.
“I agree 100 percent with Mr. White that elementary school is vital to getting kids started with a good, solid foundation for their education, Board President Maggie Tiballi said.
But, the district shouldn’t turn its back on high school students, she continued, “Because it’s their last four years to give them a headstart on life.”
“There’s no way, no way, that high school can run on just two principals,” she said.
Tiballi said it would be more efficient if the administration came up with some numbers for the board to consider.
“By Tuesday, our administrators will have sat down together and looked at the entire picture. They will look at the cuts we’ve already made, they will look at the proposals that were given to them by the building principals, and they will decide how to get down to 3.5 percent, how to get to 4.7 percent,” she explained.
On Tuesday, the board will view the proposals and get a better idea of what impact the two numbers would have on the district’s programs and then decide which option makes the best sense for the students and taxpayers, Tiballi said.
It is a better pan than to make an impulsive decision, she said.
“We’re trying to consider everyone’s wishes and everyone’s needs,” she said. “It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to reconcile those two things.”
The board will meet at 5 p.m. June 24 at a location to be announced.