Updated 04/02/2012 05:52 PM
Auburn schools deal with budget issues
The Auburn School Board plans more meetings to hash over how it will deal with a deficit of more than a million dollars as it prepares its budget for the next school year. There have been tensions as the district has tried to come to grips with the problem. But as YNN's Bill Carey reports, all sides seem to share the same hopes and the same concerns.
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AUBURN, N.Y. -- J.D. Pabis and John Cambareri are often pictured on opposite sides of issues, but the two men have much in common. Both will leave jobs in the Auburn School District in July. Both are clearly frustrated by the difficult fiscal situation facing the schools they will leave behind.
“Anything that the Governor has asked school districts to do, we already have in place. I don't know how much further we can go and cut,” said J.D. Pabis, Auburn School Superintendent.
“The funds are being withdrawn. The expectations are being increased. At some point, there has to be a give, one way or the other. Something's going to break,” warned John Cambareri, Auburn Teachers Association Co-President.
Auburn, like most cities across Upstate New York, has seen decades of declining population. A loss of tax base. Schools built to accommodate the boom years now stand empty, relics of another time.
An improving economy could mean improving revenues in the years to come, but nothing on the scale that would be needed to reverse the situation faced by Auburn and other cities across Upstate New York. All sides say they have struggled to minimize the impact on the classroom.
Cambareri said, “We are getting better results. We have been improving. We have the numbers to show it. We have been doing more with less.”
But now, as the local school board deals with yet another deficit, no one is quite sure how to maintain programs and deal with the bottom line.
“We closed a building. We used 50 percent of our unappropriated reserves, plus cut into other reserves. We downsized, in all areas. Over the last three years, we lost 96 employees,” Pabis said.
Pabis says consolidation and regionalization could save millions and help save programs. But it has been a tough sell.
Superintendent and union leader have faced off in tough negotiations over whether a wage freeze is, at least, a temporary fix. Questions involving teacher evaluations have blocked a deal.
Both men wait to see what the school board will do.
Both men worry about the future.
“If Auburn were to take their school keys and say, here you go, Governor, it's your baby. You take it over. No plan is in place. Yet, we are being forced to bankruptcy, because we are all spending our reserves, we are cutting back,” Pabis said.
“I see no long term answer, at the moment,” Cambareri said.