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Utica City School Board Reinstates Some Teachers, Approves Retirement Incentive

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Five and a half teaching positions are coming back to the Utica City School District, but 93 others will still be cut from this year’s budget.

Superintendent Bruce Karam says the positions are being retained thanks to $300,000 in extra state aid. Among the positions taken off the chopping block are a  part-time language teacher and full-time ESL teacher, which were cut at the last moment during an executive session last week.

But, Karam says a little extra money isn’t going to fix the district’s major funding issues. The UCSD has a deficit of nearly $6.2 million, which includes nearly $600,000 recently lost in federal funds.

“If we were getting our fair share of state aid then we wouldn’t be running these kinds of deficits and we wouldn’t have to be laying all these teachers off,” Karam said.

During the Tuesday night meeting, the Board also approved a $14,000 retirement incentive that Karam says 17 teachers are preparing to take.

“We did a cost analysis on that and that will save us after filling those positions with lower senior people… it’ll save us a little bit over $300,000,” Karam said.

The Utica School District is considered a high-need district and is the fifth poorest in the state. Without added funding, Karam says he is afraid employees may see more cuts and other money saving measures.

“It’s the rising costs in pension, health care and other operating costs,” Karam said.  “You’re seeing  a charter school that’s going to be taking millions of dollars from us in state aid. You’re seeing us underfunded to the tune of $57 million a year, according to the BOCES State Aid Planning Office. So, when you take all these factors together, we’re in a very serious situation. And what we’re trying to do is balance this budget every year, and it’s like putting a Band-Aid over a hole that’s leaking very badly.”

Karam says next year’s budget weighs on his mind, but for now he is remaining focused on the deficit at hand and keeping the district functional until assistance can arrive.

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