Nearly 80 positions on the chopping block in M.E.

By Erika Mahoney

March 14, 2013 Updated Mar 14, 2013 at 11:59 PM EDT

Town of Union, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Homer Brink Elementary third-grader braved his nerves Thursday to read a hand-written letter before a big crowd.

He wants to save his teachers.

Practicing in the hallway, his words hit the heart.

"Please keep trying and keep our teachers," Ryan Derkowski read.

Derkowski, who said he loves his elementary, says he doesn't want to see his favorite teachers go.

"Some of the teachers that are going to be cut are going to be mine," he said. "And I'm going to be very sad when we don't have them in our school anymore."

In one of the school district's final budget meetings, the superintendent laid out which positions could go.

"It's painful, you feel bad," said Superintendent Jason Van Fossen. "You realize that people in the crowd are saying 'that's me and if I'm out of a job, how is that going to impact my family?'"

The numbers, he says, are weighing on him.

In the latest budget proposal, the equivalent of nearly 80 positions, a net savings of $3.6 million.

Van Fossen says it's not an easy decision, but a necessary one, in light of a $3.8 million deficit made worse by the costs of growing state mandates. The combination means a total budget gap of $4.9 million.

In all, the equivalent of 11 instructional positions will be cut from elementary programs, 12.6 from secondary programs and 14 from K-12 programs.

Three positions could be cut from instructional support and seven from general support.

Those cuts, plus mid year reductions and retirements, total 79.9 positions.

Less teachers means bigger class sizes, parents said.

"It's hard to concentrate, even with 24 kids in the class," Derkowski said.

His mom, who will have three children in Homer Brink next year, says the outlook is daunting.

"It's just all too much," Amy Derkowski. "And I'm not looking forward to next year because it's not fair to the teachers, as well as the children."

She says she would pay more taxes to save as many teachers as possible.

The district's maximum allowable tax levy limit is calculated to be 5.94 percent.

The district has been budgeting at that limit. But they could decide to go above just as long as they get a super-majority vote from the public.

Officials have until April 22 to decide the tax levy and adopt a budget, with a public vote on May 21.

If approved, annual taxes for residents in the district would increase $132 per year per $100,000 in property value.