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Remsen School voters to vote on budget for second time in a month

By GARY LIBERATORE

REMSEN, N.Y. (WKTV) - On May 22, all area school districts passed their 2013-2014 school budgets, except for Remsen.

Remsen Interim School Superintendent Carl Klossner says he hopes voters will pass the revised version of the district's budget on Tuesday.

"I'd like to see it pass, and we'll see what the voters want," Klossner said. "And whatever they decide is what we will live with."

Klossner says there may have been a variety of factors that made 171 people vote 'No', and only 140 vote 'Yes' last month.

He says that one factor may have been a misconception of how much the proposed school tax increase actually was.

"One of the things I heard was that people thought it was a 6% tax increase, but that (6%) was the budget change, not the levy change," Klossner said. "So, apparently we didn't do a good job getting that information out."

The levy was actually 3%, but Klossner says a $35,000 reduction to the overall budget for one position being eliminated where someone recently retired has brought the levy down to about 2.26% under the revised budget voters will be deciding on come Tuesday.

Klossner is hoping the levy reduction, along with an expected larger voter turnout, will make the difference.

84 year old U.S. Army Veteran George Roberts lives in the Town of Remsen, within the Remsen School District says he will once again vote 'No' come Tuesday.

He says that last year he paid more than $4,500 in school taxes, and this 2.26% increase will add about $130 to that.

"I'm kind of a retired guy, 84 years old and I live here with my dog," Roberts said. "We're not trying to shut the school down, we're just trying to make it fair."

Roberts says the big issue for him and some other voters, is the fact that the average salary of the 50 or so teachers in the district is $89,000 per year, which is higher than any district in the state.

Klossner says the only reason for that high average is because so many teachers stay in the district for their entire careers, and right now, there is a large number of older teachers in the district who make more money than newer teachers would.

He says the average of $89,000 per year will come down.

"Yes, that's high," Klossner said. "But there's been a number of retirements last year and this year, so by taking 12 people out of there toward the top, that median will drop."

Oneida County Legislator Les Porter lives right in the Village of Remsen and has a 'Vote Yes on Your School Budget' sign in his front yard right on Main Street.

Porter says he fully supported the proposed budget as it was last month and will support the revised version on Tuesday.

"I understand the tax situation, being a county legislator, that's the way it is, but by the same token, having seven kids be part and parcel from that school system...let's hope a good strong vote comes out for it," Porter said.

The teachers in Remsen have been working without a contract since June 2012.

Klossner says the district and union leaders have been talking for the past year, but the teachers continue to work under the previous five year agreement.

He says there's not really much the district can do to adjust teacher's salaries.

"It's contract. If it's a negotiated contract," Klossner said. "It's real hard to change any salaries, so it doesn't matter whether you are talking the teachers association or CSEA, any of the contracts that are set, those are mandated, you can't do a thing with them. Now if you negotiate it differently, if you agree to give up some things, well then, that's where that goes."

George Roberts says a 'No' vote by voters on Tuesday would send a message to the school board to get something down with the teachers' contract.

"The teacher's don't care, because they're working on last years, so they're happy," Roberts said. "Seems so they could get that contract negotiated, you know what I mean?"

If Tuesday's budget is voted down, Klossner says a contingency budget will automatically go into effect.

That will entail just over $100,000 in reductions to the administrative, instruction and capital portions of the budget.

Klossner says the reason that figure is what it is, at just over $100,000 is because the budget, by state mandate, will revert back to the current tax levy the taxpayers pay.

Tuesday's vote will take place from 1 - 8 p.m. at the Remsen Elementary School.

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