Utica Schools budget increase could cut 150 jobs


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica's Board of Education unveiled it's 2012-2013 budget Tuesday night, revealing a preliminary budget increase of $3,744,973 from 2011-2012's budget, money that Utica's School District doesn't have and that would eliminate 150 staff positions.

To make up this deficit, the board has projected to reduce kindergarten to half day sessions, eliminating 15 positions, then eliminating 20 elementary positions, 49 secondary positions, 20.4 special area teachers including art, music, and physical education staff, and 46 positions in related support services like special education and ESL district wide.

The Young Scholars and Alternative Education Transition Program would also be eliminated and athletic and sports programs would be significantly reduced.

However, Utica's School Board also presented ways the district could save and receive money, thus saving some of the jobs:
- The Utica Teachers Association and Utica Administration Association could agree to freeze wages, which could save 36 staff positions, as teachers contracted salary increases account for a majority of the budget's increase.
- Teachers' and Principals' Unions could sign a Restoration Agreement, complying with Governor Cuomo's request for evaluation requirements, what would bring $2.8 million and restore 46 positions.
-And lastly, the district could secure additional state aid. The board estimates for every one million dollars received in additional aid, 20 teaching positions could be restored.

Boces State Aid Specialist Patty Service also presented Governor Cuomo's proposed state aid decrease of $2.6 billion Tuesday night, a pull back that she says will greatly affect school districts like Utica.

"The state has run into an economic crisis, they have their own problems to deal with and since state aid to schools is a large portion of the budget, they've had to withdraw state support," says Service.

With Utica's low wealth and high need, Service says the district should be receiving $124 million of state aid, however it is only getting $71 million because of a 25 % budget cap.

"That's the whole problem," says Service. "More students, more poverty should equal more aid, but the state is withdrawing state support."

Service also pointed out that unlike many cities across New York where enrollment is decreasing, enrollment is increasing in Utica, therefore the district should be receiving more aid.

The school board says they have requested additional state aid and local state representatives are working towards securing additional aid for the Utica School District.

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