School district calls for tax increase, staffing cuts in 2013-14 budget

— The cuts undertaken during the past three years — mostly extracurricular — have been relatively easier than this year, Koennecke said. “But this year we’re cutting the flesh and not the fat,” he said.

Public comments during the hearing were composed primarily of concerns and criticisms about the proposed staffing cuts, with residents asking why more extracurricular items and activities are not being targeted instead of teachers. Some specific suggestions were to reduce more athletic programs and funding, more administrative or clerical jobs or get rid of “unnecessary” expenditures such as the “Blue and Gold” newsletter which mailed free to every home in the district.

Resident Susan Morgan said that having good buildings and grounds in the district is nice, but without quality teachers the buildings “mean nothing — they do not make the difference.”

Resident Dan Morgan said cutting staff “flies in the face” of the district’s guiding principle and the proposed cuts of core teachers are “totally irresponsible.”

A number of Cazenovia High School students also attended the meeting, with about half a dozen speaking out against the proposed elimination of Social Studies teacher Mary Ann Lonergan, who was characterized by numerous people as one of the best teachers in the district and a life-changing mentor and role model for her students.

“This is not about personalities,” Dubik said. “New York state education law and teacher contracts dictate that layoffs are determined by the least senior teacher. We don’t have a choice on that.”

A few attendees asked why the board does not simply increase the tax levy above the 4.93 percent, saying they would be happy to pay more in taxes if it meant keeping quality teachers in the district. School board member Karen Marris said it’s not such a simple decision, and that the board has to “be sensitive to all income levels in the community.”

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