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Board of Education passes $107M budget in city of Rome

By ANNA MEILER

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Several kids gathered in the hallway of Strough Middle School in Rome Tuesday night, looking at a list of dozens of teachers' names that have been cut to close a multi-million dollar gap in the budget.

Meanwhile in the cafeteria, over 200 parents came out to voice their concerns over the proposed district budget.

"They need to find some place else to do it than the teachers," said Frank Martinez, a concerned parent.

After meeting for four hours, the Board of Education passed the proposed $107 million budget with a five to three vote. The proposed budget will use half of the $10 million in the reserve fund, raise property taxes 2.5 percent, and cut 40 teachers. Twenty-six positions will be saved with the proposed tax increase and because 30 teachers accepted a retirement incentive. But parents say that's not good enough.

"My thought is if you have to increase taxes, increase them. Cutting teachers is not the answer," said JoAnne Cook.

The Rome City School District superintendent says the fight shouldn't be in this room, it should be an hour and a half down the road in Albany.

"State aid cuts, the Gap Elimination Adjustment, $20 million of aid subtracted from a formula that is intended to ensure a basic, sound education for kids," said Jeffrey Simons, superintendent of the Rome City School District.

Simons agrees the budget isn't desirable, but without more state aid they don't have a lot of flexibility. His solution is going up against a tough crowd.

"The district wants people to accept this budget, but we're going to be stating publicly that if they're not going to put forth an educationally sound budget, we're not going to support it and we will rally our troops to vote the budget down," said Christina Steurrys, Vice President of the Rome Teachers Association.

Residents will vote on the budget on May 20.

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