OSSINING, N.Y. – With the Ossining School District facing a $3 million - $4 million budget deficit next year, a group of parents say they have a plan to make sure the Ossining hockey team is no longer in jeopardy.
More than 100 residents attended three budget mini-lessons in January as a part of an early initiative to gauge community feedback on possible program cuts to help curb the $3 million to $4.4 million shortfall for the 2013-14 school year.
The district has yet to finalize the tax levy limit calculation, but officials estimate that a state-mandated 2 percent cap on the property tax levy would equal a $4.4 million budget shortfall while a 3.5 percent tax levy would equal about $3 million. Dozens of programs, from prekindergarten to teaching assistants to transportation, all face cuts but no decisions have been made.
Officials postponed discussion on the Ossining hockey team because the last budget session fell on the same night of a game.
Jackie Kopera said the Ossining School District previously considered cutting the ice hockey team and hopes the board will change its mind this year as it did before.
“The district was able to reinstate the program and keep it alive and now it’s on the chopping block yet again,” Kopera said. “It is an expensive sport and the most expensive part of it is the ice itself. With that being said, at previous budget meetings, we’ve heard a lot of groups speak and heard a lot of people plead and beg to keep their jobs. The thing I haven’t heard on a regular basis is anyone offering to help you keep their program.”
Kopera said she and parents on the team met recently to come up with a scenario to minimize the financial burden on the district. Under state law, the players and parents can’t pay the district directly to allow their kids to play, Kopera said.
“We can’t just give you a sum of money,” Kopera said, acknowledging that coaches’ fees and other fees are on the district’s shoulders. “The larger portion of the ice time is the practice hours. The ice hockey parents are willing to pay for the ice hockey practice time.”
Parents could pay for the practice ice time, transportation and even make financial donations to later offset the budget, Kopera said. The parents would be helping remove roughly $6,000 out of a $30,000 budgeted program, Kopera said.
Senior and captain Reid Saunders said his experience on the ice hockey team was one of the greatest of his high school career.
“I wish that (underclassman) could have the same opportunity that I did to become successful and to really have the chance to make a new family,” Saunders said. “We’re all a family on this team. We’re always there for each other. I hope to see this family grow and continue.”