Rome schools voters to decide on $130M budget

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ROME — In a unanimous vote at its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Rome City School District Board of Education adopted a proposed budget of $130,285,026 for the 2022-23 school year.

The spending plan approved by board members was $2,565,235 higher than the $127,719,791 budget presented by district Superintendent Peter C. Blake, at the regular meeting of the board on April 7.

“I had asked the board to allow us to increase the total budget number to provide flexibility next year,” Blake said of the $2.5 million increase. “The increased amount is completely in staffing to cover for teachers and teaching assistants/aides if we are in need of more next year.”

At the earlier April meeting, Blake had said that the district had prioritized restoring programs previously suspended, making minimal the increase in property tax and called for no reduction in staff, but warned that there was “very, very minimal flexibility for something to go wrong next year. There will be requests that, in the past, were met with a promise to explore a way to fulfill them,” said Blake, “that will now be met with a simple “no.”

The Board also approved an administrative budget for Madison-Oneida BOCES for the 2022-23 school year of $6,232,273, as well as the Rome Property Tax Report Card. The board also approved a slate of election inspectors to staff the upcoming board member and budget election scheduled for Tuesday, May 17.

Blake clarified that there would be four at-large seats to be filled by voters in the upcoming district election. Because one seat is currently held by an interim member, Danielle Lubecki, appointed by the Board to fill a vacancy created by Craig Ferretti’s resignation, the lowest vote-getter of the top four candidates would fill the interim seat. 

The candidates with the three highest votes will fill the three regular seats, each with a three-year term on the nine-member volunteer board.

Rome residents interested in running for one of the four Board seats should submit petitions containing signatures of 100 qualified voters to the Rome City School District Business Office no later than Wednesday, April 27. Nominating packets are available at the District Offices, 409 Bell Road, during the office’s normal business hours.

In addition to the propositions calling for the approval of the 2022-23 school budget and the filling of expiring board seats, Blake noted that two propositions would be included on the May 17 ballot.

One proposition seeks to establish a district reserve fund in the amount of $5,000,000. Blake clarified that – unlike a customary savings account, where one could withdraw funds and then later replenish them – a capital reserve fund could not be replenished once drawn down, so it was common for districts to maintain more than one such fund. When voters passed the referendum on phase 3 of the district’s ongoing capital project, they approved drawing down $4 million from the district’s existing reserve fund in order to avoid a tax increase to fund the projects.

There will also be a referendum calling for funding Rome’s Jervis Public Library.

The district will host its annual budget hearing on Thursday, May 5, during which it will delve into the details of the proposed school budget and invite comments and questions from community members. The time and location are yet to be confirmed.

The polls for the board and budget elections in Rome will be open on May 17 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., with polling places identical to those in place for the recent referendum vote.

According the figures released by the State Education Department, the New York State budget, which was passed earlier this month, contains a total of $88,742,235 in state aid for the the Rome City School District, an increase of $10,627,120 or 13.60% over the 2021-22 state aid.

The $127.7 million budget — unveiled to board members at the earlier April meeting — contained a 2.5% tax increase. That plan also reflected a total increase in district spending of 3.85% ($4,739,090) over last year’s final budget.

The additional cost for the average homeowner in the previous budget proposal was approximately $105, according to district officials.

The revised average increase for district taxpayers under the $130 million spending plan approved Tuesday by the board of education members was not immediately available.

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