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Oswego City School District considers closing a school as part of proposed budget cuts

Gino Geruntino
Oswego City School District Superintendent Ben Halsey discusses a series of proposed cuts to close the district's deficit.

The Oswego High School cafeteria was nearly full Tuesday night during a public forum held by the Oswego City School District regarding its proposed $81.5 million budget.

Superintendent Ben Halsey said the district was originally facing a $3.3 million deficit, but increased state aid reduced the gap to about $1.7 million. He has proposed a four percent increase in the school tax levy and outlined about $4.5 million in possible cuts. Among them are nine staff positions in the Oswego High School, other positions in the middle and elementary schools and transportation center, and even shutting down the Buccaneer Junior/Senior High School, an alternative school in the city.

Some parents and students at the forum were particularly upset about the possibility of closing the Buccaneer School, but Halsey says the meeting was insightful.

"This was the first time in the budget process that we've been able to open the floor to the entire community," Halsey said. "And it worked exactly the way it was supposed to. People come up, they professionally state their opinions and their concerns in a manner that's going to be helpful for the board to make some decisions going forward."

Halsey says everything in the district needs to be looked at carefully.

"We need to bring ourselves down to a size that's appropriate for the amount of students we have left here in Oswego," Halsey said. "And you know, set ourselves up to have the kind of finances that over the long haul... you plug in your state aid and you plug in a reasonable tax levy that you know your community supports, and you move forward."

The school board will look at several scenarios to balance its budget before its next meeting.