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UCSD superintendent sees clouds looming on budget horizon

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: UCSD superintendent sees clouds looming on budget horizon
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It's round two for people in the Utica City School District. Administrators cut nearly 160 staff members this school year. Now they're starting to get into the details of next year's budget. As YNN's Andrew Sorensen tells us, some new challenges may leave many more district employees without jobs.

UTICA, N.Y. -- Things aren't looking good for the Utica City School District.

"This is going to be an awful, awful horrible situation this year we're facing," Superintendent Bruce Karam said.

The district dodged part of a daunting $10 million deficit with negotiations this spring.

"We still ended up with a $6.2 million deficit and we had to lay off almost 160 people," Karam explained.

Now as budget talks begin again, Karam says new problems will leave another massive deficit.

"And there's going to be large layoffs again this year," he said.

How many staff members will be cut and whether the cuts will go deeper into programs like sports isn't clear yet. But the superintendent is sure cuts will happen.

The first problem he sees is the newly approved Utica Academy of Science Charter School.

"That is going to take away much needed revenue, state aid, at a time when we just simply cannot afford it," he said.

The charter's application estimates a loss of $10,000 per student who transfers. For perspective, that's about one starting teacher's salary per every five students they enroll. That means the district would lose about 35 starting teachers, the very people cut last year.

"It's going to start translating to our veteran staff," Karam said.

It could also mean dozens more support positions will be cut. Karam also sees current state funding as a major problem.

"There is currently a law suit in place that is moving forward, Hussein versus New York State, that the small city schools have taken up the cause," said Karam.

He said Utica isn't getting its fair share for a growing district.

"Our foundation aid needs to be adjusted and we need to get the proper funding so we can operate the school district," he said.

There's also a largely unresolved property tax collection issue. With all three problems combined, the writing is on the wall.

"It's going to be worse than last year," said Karam.

The only avenues the district has left are the law suit and fixing the tax problem, but the charter school appears to be set in stone.

Tax issues and budgeting around the charter school obligations are on the agenda for the district's next meeting on November 27th.

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