Deep job cuts in Rome schools likely, superintendent says

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - The Rome City School superintendent says the district might be forced to cut 100 jobs -- 60 of them teachers -- in order to balance the budget in the face of state aid that has dwindled by $22 million over the past six years.

"There's no way to make the numbers add up when the state is not meeting its responsibility to provide the aid that high- need districts need," Superintendent Jeff Simons said. "There's only two ways to fund a school district: property taxes and state aid, and both have been choked off."

Simons says before the current proposed cuts, the district faced a $12 million budget gap and that after the cuts, the gap is still at $7 million. He says the district could be forced to drain 70 percent of their reserves in order to close the gap, but that it's a choice that could lead to dangerous territory.

"The process of dipping into your fund balance to substitute for state aid takes you very close down a path to fiscal insolvency," says Simons, adding that the district will probably face more cuts for the next two years with a nearly depleted reserve.

In addition to the job cuts, the district may have to cut summer school, stop busing pre-k students, lose or diminish after-school programs and suffer larger class sizes, as large as 26 to 30 students in kindergarten and first grade, which, according to Simons, is unacceptable. 

Simons is hoping that by the time the state budget passes, additional state aid to the district will enable them to reduce projected cuts to staff and programs.

The state budget is due Tuesday. The Rome City School District is expected to vote on and adopt their budget April 22.


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