Auburn 4-9-2019

Auburn Enlarged City School District Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo, right, speaks at a district board of education meeting Tuesday.

AUBURN — The Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education has approved a tax levy increase and a budget option for 2019-20 that doesn't include layoffs.

The board selected one of three budget options presented by the district at a meeting Tuesday night.

State aid is a boost of $745,135 from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's January budget proposal figures. Lisa Green, Auburn's business official, said the district's budget deficit would come to $340,793 based on the new aid number. To close that gap, the district plans to use around $2 million in reserves and apply other cost-saving techniques, and budget for a 2.23% tax levy increase, which is equal to the district's tax cap and is the figure the district had been using to build the budget.

The budget choice favored by the district notes that two elementary teacher spots that will see retirements and won't be filled, and a teacher who currently performs academic intervention services and art will be moved to art full time to replace a retiring art teacher, Green said. Other cutbacks involved limiting support from Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES on the data management system Schooltool to one day a week, bringing instructional support services currently done by BOCES to within the district and bringing Lego/robotics programs by BOCES in-house, Green said.

It will also drop the number of slots in the high school equivalency program with BOCES from 19 to 14, as Green noted the district is working with Cayuga Community College on an alternative program. If that works out, Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo noted, all of the district's General Educational Development slots would eventually be handled by the college, as it would be at a lower cost than with BOCES.

The second budget option entailed removing math, science, English and social studies teachers. One position would have been eliminated through attrition, with the other three through layoffs. 

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The third option would have meant bumping the tax levy increase to 3.32%, over the established cap, which would need over a 60% majority vote from the community to pass.

Board member Sam Giangreco asked Green how much in reserves the district could use for emergencies next year if the district applied around $2 million this year to fill the shortfall. Green said the district would be left with around $900,000 that could be used the following year.

Toward the discussion's end, Giangreco made a motion to direct Pirozzolo to create a budget based on the first option. The motion was seconded by Eli Hernandez, with six board members voting for it and Ian Phillips and Fred Cornelius voting against. Board member Jeff Gasper was absent.

Phillips said he wanted more information, such as how many teaching and administrative vacancies are open right now, to explore other options. Cornelius said after the meeting that he felt there was enough time before a final budget decision needs to be made to discuss further options beyond the three presented.

The district is set to present a finalized budget at a April 24 meeting for a board vote. The last day a district can adopt a budget is April 26.

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