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Oswego schools face a $5 million budget gap

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Payne Horning
/
WRVO News
Parent Pam Dowd implores the public to come together as the Oswego City School District faces severe cuts due to dropping tax revenues.

Update:

The Oswego Classroom Teachers Association released the following revised statement Thursday morning.

"The Oswego Classroom Teachers Association recognizes the dedication on behalf of the Superintendent and the Board of Education to the financial health of the Oswego City School District. We hope the district will continue to work with the associations in order to create a fiscally responsible budget which maintains their responsibility to our community and to the future of our educational system. We believe there is still work to be done and the OCTA hopes the district will continue to work in collaboration with the associations in the upcoming weeks to avoid cuts that would damage the quality of education the youth of our community deserves."

Previous coverage:

Still in his first year on the job, Oswego school district Superintendent Dean Goewey is doing something many of his predecessors did not. He is not going to use school district reserves to fill a hole in the budget. 

It's a practice that has depleted the school's fund balance to $4.1 million dollars. He said that caused the state to designate the district as susceptible to fiscal stress.

"We no longer have the amount sitting in reserve accounts that we can just dip into to help balance our budget which is why we're moving to a 100-percent revenue-based budget," Goewey said.

The trouble with that model is that revenues are down by $2 million from last year, mainly because of a drop in taxes from the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Facility. So basing it solely on revenue, Goewey's is proposing a budget that calls for cuts to health insurance, staff benefits and athletic programs. It would also eliminate about 50 positions.

Goewey, who would take a $27,140 salary cut, said it is hard for everyone.

"I know that nobody at this board table likes any of these reductions," Goewey said. "I hate these reductions. And I know that the audience does too, but it's time for us to make some very difficult decisions. We have to move our district forward. We can either curl up and die over this or we can look at it as an opportunity for growth and renewal."

Retiring speech therapist Catherine Mears said she has never seen a financial crisis like this in her 32 years in the district.

"Everything's gone and so, this is a budget like you make a budget at home and some years are tougher than others," Mears said. "This is a tough one."

The school board and voters will be asked to approve the budget, and its proposed 2.5 percent tax levy increase, over the next two months.

In a statement, the Oswego Classroom Teachers Association says they “recognize the dedication on behalf of the Superintendent and the Board of Education to the financial health of the Oswego City School District. Further, the OCTA deeply appreciates the efforts the Superintendent and the Board of Education have made to create a fiscally responsible budget maintaining their responsibility to our community.  However, we believe there is still work to be done and the OCTA will continue to work in collaboration with the District to avoid cuts that would damage the quality of education the youth of our community deserve.”

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.