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With Budget In Place, District To Consider Personnel Issues

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego City School District voters approved the budget for the 2013-14 school year. But how the district implements that spending plan could deviate slightly from the original plan.

The 2013-14 budget is $78,240,412. That is an increase over the current budget of $1,636,355.   The tax rate increase is 2 percent.

The budget also calls for a reduction of 8.6 positions.

Prior to Tuesday’s school board meeting, Jim Jackson, head of the district’s CSEA, asked the board to reconsider some of those reductions.

“I would like to come back to the issue of losing a couple of our support staff positions, I believe at the high school. I know they are supposed to be ‘soft cuts’ (not filling a vacant position), but it’s really not a soft cut,” he told the board.

The district’s support staff has been “whittled away at for years and years, budget after budget,” he said.

“We have gotten rid of all the fat that we can get rid of,” he said.

When he started working at the high school, three custodial positions were cut. A bit later, a couple cleaners in the cafeteria were also axed.

“That’s five positions out of that school. Since that time, in the last few years with our building projects, we’ve added two additions to that building. We now probably have close to 200,000 square feet of building with nine people cleaning that building,” he continued. “And that doesn’t include all the after-school activities, and all the other stuff that is going on in that building. I’m asking the board to reconsider getting rid of those positions.”

Board member Linda Sereno said she hopes to address “these types of issues” now that the budget vote is done.

“They have been put out on our board table, but we really haven’t delved into the nitty-gritty,” she said. “I will be advocating for you.”

“Jim, as a member of the finance committee, during the discussion putting the budget together, I brought those issues up several times,” board member Sam Tripp added.

What the district is approving “is just a number,” he said.

“We can move that around. And, we did that last year. We approved a number and then we put on more teachers; we took so many layoffs and we hired more teachers because of school needs,” he said. “So, right now, we’re just approving the budget number. We can fluctuate how we need personnel. Although we’re talking about cuts, it may not come to that.”

Voting on Tuesday went rather smoothly.

“It was a fairly routine day. However, there was a slight problem with the voting machine in Scriba. A mechanical error locked the curtain in place and this necessitated a few voters having to use a paper ballot,” according to Bill Foley, district clerk. “The machine was back in service by 12:15 p.m. (after about 15 minutes).”

They had to make some slight adjustments at polling sites, “due to student safety and modified school security systems,” he added.

Voter turnout appeared down compared to previous years.

The budget numbers for this year were 1,131-407.

Last year the numbers were 1,576-445. The previous year it was 1,869-712. And the two years before that saw totals of 2,031-1,735 and 1,851-1,371.

The two incumbents, Kathleen Allen and Jim Tschudy were re-elected. Newcomer Heather DelConte also earned a seat on the board of education.

Allen and DelConte won full three-year terms. Tschudy will serve out the unexpired term of William Myer, who resigned from the board. His term expires on June 30, 2014.

Allen started the night in second place; but moved into the top spot after results from the second district reported in. She never relinquished the lead.

Tschudy started in third place, moved up to second after the second district reported in. He dropped to third in the next round and stayed there until the end.

Allen received more than 100 votes in four districts, including 200 in Oswego Town. That was the only 200 and highest total of any candidate.

DelConte, who started out in first slipped to second and stayed there for the last nine districts.

DelConte received more than 100 votes three times, as did Tschudy.

Her highest total was 194 and his was 189; both coming in Oswego Town.

The budget started out with a very comfortable fashion with the yes votes on top by a more than three to one margin.

It was approved in every district.

Four times it received more than 130 yes votes, including 233 in Oswego Town.

The lowest yes vote came in the city’s First Ward, 50.

The most no votes on the budget, 73, were cast in Oswego Town. The least were 15 in the Third Ward and 19 in the Fourth Ward.

The proposition regarding replacement of a dozen buses also rolled to approval.

It includes seven 66-passenger buses, two seven-passenger Suburbans as well as two 30-passenger buses and a 30-passenger wheelchair bus.

The total cost is $99,790; but state aid will provide $670,859 back to the district.