OA budget: 25 positions could be cut

By Erika Mahoney

April 4, 2014 Updated Apr 4, 2014 at 12:31 AM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Owego-Apalachin school district could lose 25 staff and faculty members in face of another bare bones budget.

Last week, Superintendent Dr. Bill Russell presented his 2014-2015 budget to the school board.

He proposed to cut 25 positions through layoffs and retirement, instate a two percent tax increase, and use money from their reserves fund -- $187,000. He admitted digging into that fund is a problem because the district faces a structural deficit, in which income exceeds revenue.

Now that the state budget is out, so are specific state aid numbers.

Russell said surprisingly the state budget includes a $591,000 increase in state aid for OA. Still -- deep cuts over the past five years can't be corrected in one spending plan.

"It's less problematic than it was, but it is by no means an easy situation for our school district at all," Dr. Russell said.

That's because their tax levy limit is set at .02 percent.

Now school leaders are tasked with finding a way to make up the difference. Dr. Russell said convincing residents to vote for surpassing the cap is highly unlikely; the state budget includes a property tax rebate that will make residents ineligible for the rebate if their property taxes increase.

If the school board sticks with a zero percent tax levy limit and cuts 25 positions, they will still need to use $160,000 in the reserves fund, according to Dr. Russell.

With an April 24 deadline on approving the budget, school leaders are busy navigating what to do next, with big decisions ahead.

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