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March 23, 2011

 

Homer lays out potential school cuts

District targets 6.8 positions in $39.1M budget proposal; tax levy increase not set yet

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandard.news.net

HOMER — The Homer Central School district’s latest 2011-12 budget proposal includes nearly 7 position cuts.
The $39.1 million spending plan would cut 3.8 instructional positions and three noninstructional positions, Superintendent of Schools Nancy Ruscio said at a school board meeting Tuesday.
The instruction position cuts would include a music teacher who works in the intermediate and elementary schools, a teacher’s assistant, a position in enrichment and a literary coach, Ruscio said.
Some of the cuts are not full-time positions but adjustments in services offered by a librarian, the school psychologist and a role change for a position in the reading program at Hartnett Elementary School.
The tax levy increase needed for the 2011-12 budget is still being determined. The district is looking at an increase between about 4 and 7.5 percent, depending on the use of reserves and the final aid figure in the state budget due April 1.
The current year’s budget is $38.3 million.
“This is the worst-case scenario,” Ruscio said of the position cuts. “We will do as little of this as possible, if we were to gain additional state aid out of Albany.”
The three noninstructional positions include two bus drivers and one cleaner.
The preliminary budget for 2011-12 was $40.1 million, but the district has been working to pare down that number as the budget process goes along.
The school district still has time to make adjustments to the school budget, Ruscio said. The school board must adopt the final proposal by April 22.
Two members of the music department and a member of the Homer Music Booster club said a cut to the department would hurt the district’s overall music program.
Cara McLaughlin, voice teacher at Homer High School, said the music teachers have different specialties and already manage an array of after-school activities.
She said it will be difficult to maintain some musical extracurricular activities if a position is cut.
“With a reduction in one person, I cannot imagine how we’re going to cover that,” McLaughlin said.
She said cutting the Intermediate School position could mean losing the club Soul Singers and the intermediate school musical.
“It has the potential to decimate the participation in vocal music in our entire district,” McLaughlin said.
Several board members implored members of the community to ask their state representatives to restore some of the school’s aid.
Ruscio said the cuts would mean some students would have larger group vocal lessons that last for a shorter periods of time.
“It really does harm the total school program when we have to cut these types of things,” Ruscio said of the music position cut.
She said extracurricular activities in music and other areas keep students coming to school and are important to their education and development.
“It’s very difficult,” Ruscio said.
Board President Scott Ochs stressed that all employees who could be affected by position cuts were notified before the board’s public workshops.
The school district will take about $1 million from its reserves and $1.4 million from its fund balance for this year’s budget. The district is also considering using an additional $500,000 from its reserves for this year’s budget.
The school district will present the budget and receive public feedback on April 5.
The vote is May 17.

 

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