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Budget workshop illustrates another tough year for Utica schools

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - With the automatic spending cuts of the sequester coming on top of another tight budget, the Utica School District is looking at 99 staff positions cut next year. The cuts and the reasoning behind them were the topic of discussion before Tuesday's school board meeting with a budget workshop.

Only a handful of people, mainly school district staff came to the budget workshop, but it allowed them and Board of Education members to ask questions on next year's budget, described as another year that does not look good for Utica schools.

88 positions, 54 of them teachers were already set to be cut for next year. With the automatic cuts of the sequester now in place, it raises that number to 99, cutting an additional 10 teachers and one clerical position.

Among the reasons for this years budget increase is the opening of a charter school which will take almost $1.8 million from the district's budget next year to cover the tuition and transportation costs, increasing retirement rates and salary and benefits and growth in student population. The district is now educating an additional 136 students from 2012.

While Superintendent Bruce Karam says he is pleased that the budget only raises taxes by 2 %, he says it's going to be another tough year and that the students will see larger classroom sizes as a result of the district being forced to cut more staff.

Loss of additional state aid is also to blame for the district's over $5 million deficit. Superintendent Karam says the district continues to be underfunded.

Tuesday they were asking anyone who came to the meeting to sign a letter to both Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and Senator Joseph Griffo encouraging them to keep pushing for a change in the state's school funding formula. The letters will also be available at the Clerk's Office, as well as on the district's website for people to sign and send.

The Utica School Board will hold another Budget Workshop for the public on Tuesday, March 12th.

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