School district says 20-25 teacher layoffs are likely

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About 20-to-25 Rome school district teachers probably will be laid off for the 2019-20 school year, said district Superintendent Peter C. Blake regarding budget-related cuts that are being adjusted according to ongoing retirements or departures.

For “true layoffs...when the dust settles June 30” at the end of the current 2018-19 school year, Blake estimated the 20-25 range during a public hearing Thursday night on the proposed 2019-20 district budget.

The school district in early April had sent notices to about 90 teachers informing them of potential layoffs for 2019-20, based on a contractual requirement to provide notification by April 15.

But Blake said at that time the actual layoffs could be in the range of about 40, and about two weeks ago he lowered the estimate to about 35 while predicting then that it could change further pending further retirements or departures.

The budget hearing Thursday night at Rome Free Academy was attended by about five people besides school district officials or Board of Education members.

Audience members asked about topics including state financial aid, comparisons with other local school districts, and security staffing for 2019-20 following Blake’s presentation on the $116.69 million proposed budget.

The 2019-20 spending plan calls for a 4.06 percent increase in the local property tax levy.

It also proposes eliminating about 75 positions overall including the estimated layoffs plus others through attrition.

Proposed program cuts include pre-K special education, a Hillside Work-Scholarship program contract involving RFA students, all field trips, plus some other categories.

Among audience questions at the budget hearing:

• Will any security personnel be cut at RFA? — Blake said two district security positions are being reduced, with locations to be specified.

The district is working with the Rome Police Department to possibly add a third uniformed school resource officer position at RFA, he noted.

• What is the likelihood of the school district receiving the approximately $52 million in state financial aid that is owed from the past six years? — The likelihood is “zero percent,” said Blake. The state aid formula is “fundamentally broken,” he commented.

In upcoming years, said Blake, the district likely will see increases in its proportions of state aid. The district’s situation and entitlement to more aid have been explained to Albany officials, he added.

• Why are some surrounding school districts not seeing the same levels of tax increases? — Blake said he was not fully familiar with their situations, noting that Rome is classified as a small-city school district with different state aid considerations.

Utica is the only other small-city school district in Oneida County.

The proposed 2019-20 Rome district budget is subject to final approval by district voters in a May 21 election, and would take effect July 1.

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