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Superintendent: with budget passed, Utica Schools can move forward
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica voters overwhelmingly approved, voting 2,646 to 1,087 Tuesday night for a Utica City School budget that will cut 144 teachers and more than 70 other staff from Utica Schools.
A day after the vote, Utica Schools Superintendent Bruce Karam says he is relieved that the budget passed so that the district can move forward with planning.
"We've notified the employees that are slated to be laid off to balance the budget, you know, and that was a very painful situation," says Karam. "We did not want to lay anyone off. We didn't want to make cuts like that, but we had no choice."
Depleted reserve funds and little increases in state aid forced Utica's School Board to make cuts to balance a $10 million deficit. The taxpayers approval of the plan now allows the district to move forward with scheduling for next year, filling classrooms that, with 144 fewer teachers, will be bigger.
"We're estimating it will be under 30 for elementary and maybe a little bit over 30 for secondary," says Karam of the class size. "You know, these are estimates and projections, but they are going to be larger than they were this year theres no doubt about that."
And it's not just teachers, as some academic and athletic programs were also cut, including full day kindergarten.
"We were forced to make those kinds of difficult and painful decisions to go from a full day kindergarten to half day. We didn't want to. Nobody here wants to do it, but we were forced to do it, because we don't have the money to pay for it," says Karam.
Superintendent Karam is thankful for the community's support with the budget. He says the district is continuing negotiations with the teachers union and if teachers agree to either a wage freeze or Governor Cuomo's APPR teacher evaluation guidelines, they could restore some of the jobs.