Utica budget passes, UTA negotiations linger
The Utica City School District budget caused quite a stir this year as they cut 217 positions, nearly half their sports programs, and scaled back full-day kindergarten to half-day. The budget passed as is with nearly a two to one margin. But as our Andrew Sorensen tells us, the fight to save some of those jobs is just beginning.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- Utica came out en masse to vote for the City School District's budget Tuesday night. The turnout was so high, in fact, that some polling locations had to use affidavit ballots when they ran out of regular ballots.
But despite a landslide decision by the voters, there were no easy choices.
UCSD School Business Official Maureen Albanese explained, "It's really been a very difficult budget season this year. With our foundation aid frozen, when we began the budget process we had a deficit of about $10 million."
The deficit caused a deeply slashed budget, including 217 position cuts that hinge on agreeing to teacher evaluations tied to $3.8 million in aid from the state.
"We are still going with the 217 cuts. We are in negotiations with the teachers union," Albanese said.
The negotiations already failed one vote by the teachers, and the clock is ticking to set schedules for teachers and students for next year. There are several meetings scheduled, but union leadership hopes they will have something soon.
"We're not starting negotiations over," said UTA President Larry Custodero. He went on to speculate when a vote would occur. "We're working off of what we've got. And if there are compromises and things we can bring to the teachers, as soon as we get back from the Memorial Day break."
The district says about 70 teaching positions could be restored with an agreement, but it's too late for the sports, full-day kindergarten and other programs.
"Those programs that were cut will stay cut. What we would put back first would be teaching positions," Albanese said.
In addition to sorting out their teaching numbers, the district also says they will need to start work next month to see what problems next year's budget will bring.