Utica superintendent: Most layoffs will be avoided with state aid boost

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - It was a good-news morning in the Utica City School District.

"I'm happy to report that this morning we got that additional aid from Albany of approximately $4.5 million for operating aid," said Utica School Superintendent Bruce Karam.  Just one week ago, the district was bracing for 95 layoffs -- 52 of them teachers.

"We're reworking the numbers now, so we kind of figure we should be able to bring back the majority, but we're still going to have layoffs because we're still going to have a $2.5 million deficit," says Karam.   "First of all, you know, we have a priority list of what we would need to restore immediately in order to keep class sizes low, or lower. And also certain subject areas we want to continue offering. We don't want to take any subject areas away from students."

Karam says state lawmakers went to bat for their districts. Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi says the $1.1 billion in additional state aid to schools is headed to the neediest districts. Utica definitely qualifies.

"But in terms of Utica this year, with the refugee issue that they're facing, the tremendous increase in population growth and the fact that they were identified by the state comptroller as a district that's in fiscal distress, that's what was able to help us drive more aid to Utica but going forward, obviously more has to be done for the City of Rome, as well," says Brindisi. 

Rome Superintendent Jeff Simons says he's grateful for the additional $1 million in state aid, but that it's not going to make much of a difference in their current predicament of having to layoff roughly 100 employees, 60 of them teachers.

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