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Oswego City School District passes budget, upsets some

Gino Geruntino
A view inside the Buccaner Junior-Senior High School's science classroom. (file photo)

The Oswego City School Board has passed its budget for next year, but parents and students from one school aren't happy with it.

The $79.9 million budget eliminates about 28 positions, ranging from teachers and coaches, to mechanics and custodians. It reduces other spending by more than $500,000 and increases the school tax four percent. It also postpones a voter proposition to borrow money for new buses. The cuts fill a $1.7 million budget gap, and leaves some funds in reserve for the future.

The Buccaneer Junior-Senior High School was a thorny issue for the school board. Dozens of parents, like Kathy Rice, spoke in support of the school, which would be reintegrated into the city's middle and high school.

"These students signed up for the school for a number of reasons and have proved over and over again how strong of a program it really is," Rice said.

Superintendent Ben Halsey says the board will begin meeting with teachers and counselors to make the students' transitions easier.

"We're going to start having these meetings this spring," Halsey said. "So when they leave in June, they have a sense of comfort that when they come to school in September, it's going to be OK."

So far, there isn't a concrete plan of how the transition will take place or what pieces of the program will be implemented next fall.

Halsey says he knows the budget isn't perfect, but it's the best scenario the board could come up with.

"Given the circumstances that we're dealing with and with a little bit of the uncertainties in the revenue that are on the horizon, the fact that the board as a whole with consensus supported this financial plan, it means a lot to me as a superintendent going forward," Halsey said. "What we tried to do is we have a gap, we have some uncertain revenue in front of us. So what we tried to do is make reductions that we diversified and didn't effect any one particular area completely."

The budget does have a silver lining. As part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's tax freeze legislation, taxpayers will receive a rebate check in their yearly taxes. Halsey says for a $100,000 home, the rebate would be $52. Oswego residents will vote on the budget May 20.