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One week to go for Utica's School Budget Vote

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica's School Board held a public hearing Tuesday night to present to residents their proposed 2012-2013 school budget, what cuts over 200 jobs but keeps taxes within the 2 % property tax cap.

Only a handful of residents came out for the public hearing to hear the school board explain how they balanced a budget with a $10 million deficit and little money to pull from.

"We've used our reserves over the last couple of years, those are empty," says Superintendent Bruce Karam. "Now nothing to offset deficits of the last couple years, the state aid has not increased to where it should, foundation aid now frozen... so we had to make painful layoffs."

The proposed budget eliminates 7 administrative positions, 144 teacher positions and approximately 66 other staff positions, cutting a total of 217 jobs from Utica City Schools. It also reduces full day kindergarten to half day and brings cuts to other school programs.

Despite the cuts, Superintendent Karam says the budget keeps the cost at what tax payers can afford.

"I mean taxes are going up in the city of Utica by 10%, the county 6 %, there's only so much that the residents can afford so we were very mindful of this," says Superintendent Karam. "We kept it at 2 % which is low, and we balanced our budget and now we really are hopeful that it will pass."

Superintendent Karam says if the public votes no, Utica Schools would have to adopt a contingency budget that would default the budget back to last years taxes and in doing so could bring even more cuts such as:
-12 additional teacher positions eliminated resulting in larger class sizes and/or
- all sports programs being abolished and/or
- many advanced placement courses as well as additional educational programs being cut.

The District was able to reach an agreement with the Utica Administrators' Association on a wage freeze, however has been unable to reach similar agreements with the teachers' union. Karam says the District is still negotiating with the teachers in hopes of reaching an agreement on a wage freeze and Governor Cuomo's APPR teacher evaluation requirements in order to cut the $10 million deficit in half. With that money they would bring back full day kindergarten and as many teaching jobs as possible.

The vote on Utica City School District's Budget is Tuesday, May 15th from noon to 9 pm.

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