Liverpool students will face fewer resources in the classroom, and voters will see a higher tax bill if the adopted school district budget is approved by taxpayers in the May 15th vote. District officials adopted a budget Monday night that calls for a 3.2% tax increase and more than 40 position cuts. As our Katie Gibas reports, they also passed a budget without FOCUS, also known as the FOCUS Academy.
LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- Colby Sutter is the Youth Development Program Coordinator for Prevention Network. He presents every month at the FOCUS Academy in Liverpool, an alternative high school setting for students who need more individual attention.
Sutter says there's just something special about the school, its staff and students.
"As somebody who is impartial, I'm coming in an telling you that the school works. I have nothing to gain or lose if it closes, personally. I'm just letting you know that my professional level, I've been doing this for years, going into schools. This school works. Why close down something that works?" said Colby Sutter, the Prevention Network Youth Development Coordinator.
For many of the students at FOCUS Academy, it's a haven; some say, the only place they fit in. The PILOT program serves 44 students in a small classroom setting. That refuge will close at the end of the school year, sending these 9th and 10th graders back into the high school.
"Majority of them said that they would drop out. Some said that they would get their GED that they're not going back to the normal high school because they don't fit in. They find it too hard. They maybe don't like some of the kids there. It's a big school. It's easy to get lost in the system at a bigger school," said Sutter.
The decision to close FOCUS became official Monday as the Liverpool Board of Education adopted their 2012-2013 budget. It came under criticism because the district spends about 15% more per student in the program than in the high school. As they program grew, the cost would continue to rise. Board members say they also couldn't support the program while class sizes in the main high school were skyrocketing.
"I don't think it was totally a financial decision. I think that a number of things that we had projected and hoped would occur were not able to occur and certainly money was a big part of it. Splitting personnel between two buildings, you can't be two places at once. So you have a choice: you either hire additional people or you have two people trying to do three jobs," said Pat DeBona-Rosier, the Liverpool Board of Education President.
Taxpayers will have their say on the budget when they vote May 15th.
At their meeting Monday night, the board of education also accepted a sub-committee's recommendation to redistrict for the 2013-2014 school year. Internal employees have been charged with the task of studying how to best redraw district lines. At this point, they have not budgeted for hiring an outside firm or the actual redistricting.