Community Weighs In On Ossining School Budget Cuts

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Ossining community members packed into Roosevelt School on Wednesday night to ask the Board of Education not to cut programs next year.
Ossining community members packed into Roosevelt School on Wednesday night to ask the Board of Education not to cut programs next year. Photo Credit: Nathan Bruttell

OSSINING, N.Y. – Ossining parents, students and community members supporting after-school programs, guidance counselors and arts programs said the Ossining school district will have to look elsewhere when trimming the budget this year.

With a projected $3 million revenue shortfall for the 2013-14 schools budget, district officials said Wednesday night during an Ossining Board of Education meeting that something will need to be cut for the district to stay within the property tax levy limit.

District officials and community members discussed various programs, including Ossining High School electives, guidance counselors, elementary class sizes, and summer and after-school programs during the second of three “mini-lessons” on the budget designed to gauge public interest in possible cuts.

As he looked around at the more than 120 people packed into Roosevelt School’s cafeteria Wednesday night, interim Superintendent Ray Sanchez said he felt encouraged the community could solve the difficult task ahead.

“You can hear a pin drop in this room,” Sanchez said during the meeting. “And I think the reality is that we all share similar concerns. We have not made decisions just yet and are starting early purposely. We want to hear from everyone before we finalize decisions.”

Board Vice President Dana Levenberg later asked residents pleading for the board to keep programs also to come up with suggestions for where to cut the budget in other areas.

“I’m guessing that most of you are not here to ask us to cut more than we’re proposing,” Levenberg said. “While you may not like this, OK, we’d love to hear suggestions of what you would be in favor of cutting.”

More than a dozen students, staff and community members spoke during the meeting, making cases for various programs to remain, but few could come up with alternative cuts. Lisa Murray, a parent and vice president of the Ossining Special Education Parents Teachers Organization, said she had an idea why making suggestions of things to cut became so hard.

“It’s difficult to suggest one service to cut over another. We’re all very deeply concerned about the future of our schools,” she said. “Cutting services is unfortunately a fact of life these days, but there is only so much that can be cut. At some point cutting has to end.”

After listening to a presentation on estimates of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be saved through cutting various programs and the disadvantages of cutting each, Murray said the numbers didn’t tell the whole story.

“You can’t quantify what we could lose or what we would lose cutting any of the services proposed this evening,” she said. “Mr. Sanchez noted earlier there is not enough room on those slides to list all of the disadvantages with the proposed cuts, and I believe that statement says it all.”

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