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Full day Kindergarten and High School Hockey on the chopping block

By CAROLINE GABLE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) Teachers, parents and Utica residents packed a public hearing on the proposed $138 million Utica school budget Tuesday night. Even though the Utica School District recently found out they're getting $1.5 million back in state aid, Superintendent Jim Willis proposed controversial cuts, like changing kindergarten from a full day to a half day.

Teachers and parents voiced concerns that students won't be prepared for first grade without a full day of kindergarten instruction. Cutting back kindergarten to a half day would save $826,034 for the year. Another issue that people passionately spoke out against, cutting the Proctor Raiders hockey team entirely. Some Hockey parents say they're willing to take up cost sharing measures if possible.

The number of positions (both administrative and teaching) that would be cut in this proposal, 42. Its estimated that would save over $2 million. One guidance council from Proctor High School, James Davis, attended the public hearing only to learn his job is slated to be cut too. Davis was surprised about the diverse concerns heard at the podium, "There were a lot of points in terms of hockey, people are concerned about hockey, I wasn't aware of that stuff, and people are concerned about art and music and how those are also needed. Everything is needed together. To see anything go would be very difficult especially when you work with a lot of those people," said Davis.

Board members are planning to seek relief from the unions, possibly in the form of a wage freeze that could result in $2 million in savings. Many questions were left unanswered. The school board does plan to address some of the issues that were brought up at their second public hearing on Thursday, at 6 p.m. That meeting is also being held at the administrative building at 106 Memorial Parkway.

The Utica School Board is facing an April 22nd budget deadline.

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