Modified sports, 30 teacher jobs among proposed Rome school budget restorations

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Modified-level sports programs, after-school secondary-grade clubs and activities, and pre-K for 3-year-olds are among expense categories reinstated in the latest Rome school district 2019-20 budget proposal after previously being targeted for cuts.

Among other restorations within an updated budget proposal Thursday by district Superintendent Peter C. Blake, compared to a prior proposal, are 30 teaching positions.

The reinstatements reflect “one of the large changes from a few week ago” in the budget proposal, Blake said in a video presentation on the district website. He previously had proposed cutting all modified sports and after-school clubs and activities at savings of $249,312 and $160,000 respectively, while he previously had proposed outsourcing outsourcing pre-K for 3-year-olds to community facilities using grant funding, at a savings of $153,651 in district expenses.

Additionally revised is a proposed local property tax increase of 4.06 percent, up slightly from an earlier proposal for a 3.96 percent increase. A 4.06 percent increase would be the maximum allowed for the school district based on state tax-cap formulas, and would generate about $1.37 million in additional revenue compared to 2018-19; the proposed 2019-20 local property tax levy would generate about $35.16 million in revenue overall.

The revised proposal also calls for a reduction of 62 positions including 42 in teaching; eight instructional coaches or teachers on special assignment; four in administration; and eight support staff. It states that 23 positions would be reduced through attrition.

Among previously proposed cuts that are still proposed, and the projected savings, are pre-K special education programs, $1.51 million; transportation for pre-K programs, $250,000; the Hillside Work-Scholarship program contract, $270,000; all field trips, $45,000.

The revised budget proposal will be considered Tuesday night by the Board of Education which is scheduled to adopt a proposed budget then. The proposed budget then would be subject to district voters’ approval in a May 21 election. It is for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The proposed $116.69 million budget is nearly $1.3 million less than the current $117.9 million budget for 2018-19. Blake’s previous 2019-20 budget proposal, presented March 28, called for a $114.67 million spending plan. Since then, the school district has been slated to receive about $1.5 million more in state financial aid in the final 2019-20 state budget compared to earlier projections. But Blake said the budget still includes about $7.4 million in reductions for positions and programs compared to what would have been included if all the current 2018-19 expenses were rolled over into the 2019-20 budget.

While projected 2019-20 revenues including state aid as the largest category are projected to be about $1.85 million less than 2018-19, the “numbers are still significantly better than a month ago,” Blake said; state aid accounts for about $77 million of the 2019-20 district budget revenue. The expense reductions in the 2019-20 budget proposal are needed to help balance the spending plan and offset revenue shortfalls including state aid that has not kept up with state formulas for what the amounts should be, he commented.

Some potential additional state aid might be available, said Blake, including a “bullet aid” category involving one-time payments; he commented in a blog last week he was hopeful of the district possibly getting about $500,000 in such aid. But he said Thursday there is no further information at this time.

The latest budget proposal calls for using about $2.53 million of the district’s available fund balance/reserves, which would leave about $4.8 million in remaining fund balance/reserves.

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