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Utica Superintendent: "We wiped out our savings to make this budget happen"

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Deeper than expected cuts have made everything from jobs to programs vulnerable in school districts across New York State.

Many are proposing layoffs and tax levy increases to make up for the gap in funding, including the Utica School District.

Wanda Rishel is 100 years old. She drove herself to the polls to vote in the Utica School Board Election, and hasn't missed a vote since she was old enough to cast a ballot.

"Well, I always thought it was something people should do and I'm always interested in what's going on," Rishel said.

Rishel is voting on a painful budget in the Utica School District, with $1.2 million less in state aid than the district had hoped for.

"Even if we had our state aid frozen, it'd be a losing proposition for us because we grow 56 million dollars a year," said Utica Superintendent James Willis.

The cut in state aid forced Superintendent Willis to fill that budget hole with people, and more painful cuts. If the Utica School Budget passes, 43 layoffs loom, along with the district's hockey program, night school, and modified sports in the middle schools, all of which could be lost.

And forget about any financial cushion....

"We basically wiped out all our savings to make this budget happen," Superintendent Willis said.

If the budget fails, the three options are - a contingency budget, putting the same budget back to voters, or a different budget up to voters. So in all three scenarios, with such tight budget constraints, not much is really going change.

There is also a school board seat up for grabs in Utica, with Ralph DeSantis and Margaret Buckley both vying for the open sea.

Polls in Utica close at 9 p.m.

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