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Education

Oswego school officials say tweak to state aid formula needed

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Payne Horning
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WRVO News File Photo
Oswego City School District Superintendent Dean Goewey presents major budget cuts to the school board and public.

Oswego school officials hope a public hearing on its budget crisis Tuesday will alert state lawmakers to what they call a broken funding formula. The school district is wrestling with declining tax revenues and reserve funds, which has resulted in a proposed budget that cuts more than 50 jobs.

"This is an era of financial difficulty for our district that we have to weather over the next three years after this year," said Oswego City School District Superintendent Dean Goewey, the architect of the controversial budget that slashes more than $5 million.

Goewey said the district reached this point after former administrations spent down the reserves and did not incrementally increase the tax levy. But he said part of the blame belongs to New York's school funding formula, which determines how much each school district is awarded in state educational support. Goewey said it grossly miscalculates how much wealth Oswego has.

"They need to understand that we are not the rich school district and community that we once were and this is damaging our school district significantly," Goewey said. "We need their help."

A large chunk of Oswego's budget comes from tax deals with the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Power Plant. These payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTS) are negotiated down from what the plants would actually pay in real property taxes. That misrepresents how much Oswego city schools should receive from the state according to central New York Assemblyman Will Barclay.

"Their wealth ratio is calculated on the full assessment of the plant, meanwhile they’re not getting the same amount of tax revenues from the plant because it’s pursuant to the PILOT," Barclay said.

Goewey said state lawmakers should instead take a more comprehensive look at the city's financial situation to better reflect the state aid Oswego gets -- especially since its tax collection from Nine Mile will drop another $4 million less next year under the PILOT.