Auburn vote

Auburn Enlarged City School District Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo, left, board of education members Eli Hernandez and Karol Soules and clerk Michelle Major, right, talk while looking at the budget and election results for the district Tuesday night.

AUBURN — The Auburn Enlarged City School District's 2017-18 budget gained the needed majority vote Tuesday night, passing by a 2-1 margin.

"I'm just very happy that the community came out and supported the budget because there's nothing more valuable than educating our kids," superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo said.

The total budget is $75,272,249, a 2.5 increase from the previous year and comes with a 3.98-percent tax levy increase — the allowable cap set by the state. Voters approved the plan by a vote of 1,673-803.

James Brazee, who was working at the polling station at Auburn Junior High School Tuesday afternoon, said he voted in favor of the budget.

"Because kids are our whole future, and if you don't invest in them, you've lost," Brazee said.

Tim Hogan, who voted at William H. Seward Elementary School, said he felt his taxes were high enough already, though he said he appreciates the efforts of the teachers who instruct his children.

"I'm not getting a 4 percent raise this year, and 4 percent is a large amount," Hogan said.

A total of 13.5 positions will be cut, instead of removing 31.5 full-time equivalents, which was on the proposed budget at one point in March. The district is facing an approximate $3.6 million deficit.

The positions set to be eliminated are two elementary special education teachers, six teachers at the secondary level, four elementary classroom teachers, one assistant principal, one technology staff worker, and a part-time high school counselor.

A social worker will be added, as Pirozzolo has previously said the addition is meant to boost school attendance and lessen truancy.

The tax levy hike was approved by the school board at a previous meeting in order to save nine jobs, while $1,590,000 from district reserves will be used to retain another nine positions.

The board had debated earlier in the year over the merits of bringing the tax levy to almost 4 percent. Board member Fred Cornelius, who voted for bringing the tax levy up to the cap at a meeting in April, said at the time he had "faith" voters would approve the increase.

President Mike McCole displayed skepticism over the potential of the budget's victory at that same meeting. 

"I don't want to cut these positions but I don't want a budget that's dead on arrival," McCole said.

Incumbent Eli Hernandez (1,758) and newcomers Rhoda Overstreet-Wilson (1,747) and Joe Sheppard (1,842) were voted onto the board for three-year terms. The race was uncontested.

Overstreet-Wilson said she has been interested seeing the school district's process.

"(It's) like a learning experience, because folks don't know what happens. It feels good," Overstreet-Wilson said. 

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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