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Camillus mayor questions proposed school budget cuts

When the New York State Legislature restored $580,000 of aid to the West Genesee School District, Superintendent Chris Brown decided to use $392,000 to lower the tax levy from a 4.8 percent increase to 3.8 percent and put some back into reserves.

Camillus Mayor Michael Montero says Brown should have considered using it to bring laid off teachers back- the district has not changed its plan to reduce programming and eliminate 53 positions.

Montero owns the String Corner on Main Street in the village of Camillus. He said many customers have shared with him their concerns that cuts to the string program are not being reevaluated.

"I tell them to talk to the board of education and superintendent and let your voice be heard," Montero said. "If you don't' show up at your board meetings and voice your concerns, people don't know what you're thinking."

Personally, Montero is frustrated that three part-time string teachers will not return next year as part of the district's reduction of the third-grade string program. Those teachers are Margaret Mercer, Jill DiBattista and Kristen Panzetta, and Montero knows their abilities well. Montero teaches private lessons and heads up the Onondaga Youth String Ensemble.

"In my opinion, I would honestly say that these three are probably some of the finest string teachers we have in the county," Montero said. "This district should be lucky to have them, and to let them go - you don't replace that talent very easily."

Montero pointed to schools like Cicero-North Syracuse, Baldwinsville and Jamesville-Dewitt, which adjusted their budgets to reinstate some programming and teacher positions following the influx of funds from the Legislature.

Superintendent Brown said he's planning for the future.

"While there are some schools that are bringing pack pieces of their fine arts program because of state aid coming back, my take is those are things that are going be getting cut again next year," Brown said.

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