Oswego schools begin to make headway on budget gap
The Oswego City School District is still feeling the pain from the $5 million budget gap earlier this year when the district cut 50 positions. Next school year isn't looking much easier as the district faces a $4 million deficit. But, school officials are beginning to make some headway with avoiding a repeat of those layoffs.
The school's education center, a large building on prime real estate in downtown Oswego, seems like a relic from when the district was benefiting from the county's robust nuclear power plants. Now that the nuclear industry is in decline, so are the taxes they generate. That's why Oswego Superintendent Dean Goewey says it's time to sell the education center that some in the community call the Taj Mahal.
"We don't need this property," Goewey said. "We will fit nicely into a school. We can continue to operate effectively in a school, so not only do we want to get out from what's perceived by the community as being extravagant - because we're not an extravagant school district - but also we can move the moneys that are brought in from selling a building we own free and clear right now."
The Oswego school board approved a referendum for January that will ask voters to allow for the sale of the education center. They will also be asked to approve the use of reserve money to retrofit the high school and an elementary school. That's where the district's administrative and technology offices that are now in the education center will move.
Goewey estimates the building could be sold for $1.8 million. He says that's on top of $1.1 million in savings the district has realized from streamlining operations.
"We knew we were generating savings," Goewey said. "We came in under budget and we tried like hell to do that."
Goewey said the district can also use some reserve money in next year's budget. Altogether, he says the district is not only in a position to avoid layoffs but perhaps add back a few of the jobs that were cut last year.