School board talks options at ‘finance retreat’

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Options for potential use of additional state funding to help lessen financial concerns in the proposed 2019-20 Rome school district budget were reviewed Wednesday night by the Board of Education, with no final decisions.

The approximately two-hour special “finance retreat” session included “basically a discussion about what impact the additional monies...would have on the overall budget,” board President Paul Fitzpatrick said today.

The board “listened to some thoughts...looked at numbers...” and did “not make any real decisions” regarding the budget, Fitzpatrick commented. No formal votes were taken.

“The process continues,” said Fitzpatrick. There may be further discussion of the budget during the board’s regular finance committee meeting Monday, he added; the committee meets at 9 a.m. at the district office, 409 Bell Road.

“We have to come up with a plan” for the budget, Fitzpatrick observed, and the plan will be produced “in full on April 23.” The board that day is scheduled to adopt a proposed 2019-20 district budget, which would be subject to district voters’ approval in a May 21 election.

In the final 2019-20 state budget as announced this week, the Rome district will receive about $1.5 million more in the core Foundation Aid category compared to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s January proposal.

For the school district’s 2019-20 budget, a $114.67 million budget proposal was presented last week by Superintendent Peter C. Blake that called for about $10.1 million in proposed reductions to help balance the spending plan. Included were reductions of about 115 staff positions through attrition and layoffs, plus some program cuts.

Blake said Tuesday of the increased state Foundation Aid, “it’s a good first step because it allows for restoration of positions, but it is a long way from the $10 million in reductions that we have proposed.” He is “hopeful that continued conversations with the various departments that we have been having in Albany will help provide some additional relief in the coming weeks.”

Fitzpatrick referred to “so many variables” in the school district’s budget review process.

Among other key upcoming dates is an April 15 contractual deadline for notifications of 2019-20 layoffs to be sent to affected teachers.

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