More than 200 people who attended Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Oneonta City School District Board of Education heard proposals on how the school could close a $1.5 million budget gap. No action was taken.
Those in attendance questioned for about an hour the details of the plan that addressed the issue by interim Superintendent David Rowley. The tone was cordial throughout.
The board is expected to decide on his proposal, which includes moving sixth grade classes from the elementary to the high school. He was not as specific on a timetable for his proposal to eliminate one physical education teacher and end the German program at the high school. More cuts in staff will be suggested at the upcoming meetings, he said.
The board is due to approve a final budget to go before voters in May, by the end of April. The changes were being considered even though there is no final word on a state budget, which is due April 1, Rowley said. That may change things things, but he did not think that would be significant.
The financial problem stems from factors largely out of the districts control and are not unique to Oneonta, he said. Mandated contributions to the state employee and teacher retirement system will cost the district more than $700,000. Health insurance increases total $324,000. To close its budget gap, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed assessing all schools a portion of their state aid. The proposed cut to Oneonta aid is more than $2 million for 2013-14.
To close the gap, reductions in staff are required, Rowley said. The change in sixth grade, if approved, would save at least $135,000. It would cut one elementary teacher and one special education teacher.
Rowley said that Oneonta is one of the few districts of its size in the state that still has a seventh- and eighth-grade middle school. Besides saving money, the change would mean more effective use of staff. It would allow for an easing of the tight middle school schedule and align the district better with the state curriculum.