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Ossining Schools Wait on Budget Approval

OSSINING, N.Y. – No budget decisions were made Wednesday night, but Ossining Board of Education members agree tough decisions are ahead.

The school board met Wednesday night for an extended budget discussion at Roosevelt School. The discussions included an outline of the budget proposal that raises the 2012-13 budget to $105,986,570 from the current 2011-12 budget of $103,502,510. Officials are also recommending a 2.4 percent tax levy increase, which they say is below the possible 3.23 percent increase. With rising costs for transportation and health care, Superintendent of Schools Phyllis Glassman said several cuts were necessary, including slashing 12.4 full-time equivalent positions.

“Every loss is a loss that impacts students or programs,” Glassman said, later adding that the district has cut roughly 100 FTE positions since 2009. She said the cuts shows “the district has tried very hard to still maintain that partnership with the community that recognizes the economic situation.”

While some officials said the district had to do “more with less,” board President Bill Kress said he had to put it bluntly.

“The real fact is, we’re doing less with less,” Kress said, adding the number of positions lost could grow. “We could lose up to 20 percent” of the district’s staff “and that’s a big number.”

The two biggest roadblocks still ahead, officials said, are rising transportation and health care costs that could combine to mean an additional $2.5 million added to the budget if the district isn’t able to switch over from a self-insurance program. If the district had to absorb the $2.5 million in rising costs, Glassman outlined possible cuts that included the loss of a literacy coach, one math coach, two deans, one assistant principal, the school’s ice hockey program, two guidance counselors, all of the middle school summer programs and 15 percent of teacher assistant staff, among other items.

With the budget ultimately requiring public approval later this year, Glassman said if the budget was voted down twice, the district would not be allowed a tax levy increase and that “those cuts outlined in the first scenario would double.”

Kress said his first goal is to make sure those cuts don’t happen.

“These will have a wide impact on a lot of students and I don’t think it will be a benefit for anybody,” Kress said. “I’ve said it before but pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. So let’s try and be pigs and get this budget passed and not get slaughtered.”

The board could elect to adopt the budget at its next meeting on March 28 or at the following meeting April 4. All of school board meetings and presentations are available on the school district’s website.

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