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Utica School Board: "we're broke"

By CAROLINE GABLE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica School Board spent Tuesday night going over the latest budget proposal for the district, and were not happy about what they saw.

The Utica School District is growing, by 500 students in just the last three years.

However, as its costs are increasing, its state and federal funding is decreasing. This year alone, the expenses grew by 4.5% - equating to almost $6 million.

District officials say that big increases in costs also stem from salaries, teacher retirement costs and health insurance.

As of this date, 106 positions are potentially on the chopping block - positions that range from administrative staff to teachers. That number (for only next year) could be reduced to 74 through funding through a NYS Jobs Bill.

On Wednesday, the school board expected to learn if they will see any restoration of state aid, which could equal out to as much as several hundred thousand dollars.

However, with a $138 million budget, that news may just mean a drop in the bucket.

"The biggest problem that we are seeing right now is that Governor Cuomo's road to recovery program has cut a tremendous revenue stream for us," said Utica School Board President Christopher Salatino. "As a district, ultimately it created a $9.8 million funding shortage. The problem is, we're broke."

The board is taking many different ideas into consideration when it comes to budget cuts, including possible cuts to athletics, half-day kindergarten and a four-day school week.

Currently, they are looking for public input on the budget proposal, with two public forums scheduled to be held on April 5 and April 14 at the Memorial Parkway school board building at 6 p.m.

The budget deadline is April 22, but school board officials hope to pass a budget before that deadline.

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