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Voters decide fate of Utica City Schools

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica residents hit the polls Tuesday to decide whether or not to approve the Utica City School District's 2012-2013 budget. While keeping within the 2 % property tax cap, the proposed budget cuts 144 teachers, 7 administrative positions and 66 other staff positions, eliminating a total of 217 jobs from Utica City Schools.

Despite the many job cuts, the Utica School Board is hoping people vote for their budget, feeling it is the best plan they could come up with given the district's depleted reserve funds and little increases in state aid.

"Without state aid - a large increase in state aid - our portion of state aid, the foundation aid, is capped again or frozen," says Utica's School Business Official Maureen Albanese. "You could only get like 25 % increase this year for certain school districts and we were one of them that was capped at 25 %."

Albanese says little additional state aid, increases in benefits, salaries and utilities left Utica's School Board with a $10 million deficit, forcing it to make the difficult cuts.

"It's the best we could come up with," says Albanese. "We've tried not to hurt the students, we know it is going to have an impact on them and class sizes are going to be very large, however we felt we did what was necessary and the least negative effect on the students."

Albanese says the budget should keep elementary classes with 30 students or less, however secondary classes could increase more. Progress with teacher negotiations would restore some positions, bringing class sizes down.

"We are working with the teachers union, hopefully we will get an agreement with them and able to restore some of the positions not all, but some of them," says Albanese.

Members of the School Board are hoping voters will accept the budget, fearing the contingency budget that could be put in place if it is voted down, what would bring even deeper cuts.

"I think we estimated that approximately 12 positions or a combination of teaching positions along with cutting all sports programs," says Albanese. "Or AP courses at the high school or some of the other courses and that will make larger class sizes."

Utica polls close at 9 pm. Tuesday.

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