October 31, 2020

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Schenectady school officials say more layoffs not likely so far

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SCHENECTADY – A fourth round of layoffs to jettison staff and programs in the already...

SCHENECTADY – A fourth round of layoffs to jettison staff and programs in the already hard-hit city school district appears unlikely but School Board President John Foley isn’t ready to completely rule it out yet as the district struggles to cope with a nearly $29 million loss in state aid because of the coronavirus crisis.

“I don’t anticipate, at this point in time, another  round of layoffs like the ones we’ve been doing, which were significant in numbers,” said Foley on Tuesday. “What would dictate it happening is whether the state starts making more cuts to the aid that we’re anticipating.”

Over the past few weeks, the district has in three phases has systematically about 45o  employees, including teachers, teaching assistants, lunch monitors and middle school principals as well as temporarily closing down some school buildings and making grades 7-12 learning strictly online while delaying the start of pre-kindergarten until January.

Those and other cost-saving moves amounted to about $28 million less in spending during what school leaders emphasized was a painful period that essentially erased many of the gains in this urban district that has for years lamented the fact that has been shortchanged when it comes to state aid.

Specifically, the belt-tightening has resulted in $21.8 million in staff layoffs and reductions, $4 million in transportation savings, $1.5 million in substitutes, over time and extra duty,  $400,000 in contractual obligations, and $250,000 in utilities and miscellaneous expenses.

School leaders have continued to call on New York to be more equitable in how it distributes funds to schools and suggested the state eliminate funding formulas that cause money problems in financially struggling school districts.

Foley said he anticipates that Acting Superintendent Aaron Bochniak will continue to look at even “any more efficiencies.”

“For instance, contract (out) something and save money or use (Capital Region) BOCES for something or even some sort of shared services with another district,” he said.

Karen Corona, a school district spokeswoman, said Tuesday in an email that “any more layoffs it would be in response to need and in an effort to keep the reduction where it is.” For example, if  student enrollment increased and the district had to recall a teacher.

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