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Utica City School District desperate for additional state aid

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Utica City School District desperate for additional state aid
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A little extra state aid is something every school district would welcome with open arms. But perhaps none more than the Utica City School District. As a high need district, leaders say they're dependant on state aid to survive, aid they're not getting enough of. Time Warner Cable News Reporter Cara Thomas tells us, if something doesn't change, it's only a matter of time before this district faces insolvency.

UTICA, N.Y. -- For the past few years, the Utica School District has been whittled down to its bare bones. And the 2014-15 school year doesn't look much better.

"There's a budget deficit of 6.4 million dollars, involves almost 100 lay offs, over 50 teaching positions are cut. It's a grim budget, it's very grim," said district superintendent, Bruce Karam.

Leaders say they're struggling more than other districts because of some unique financial burdens.

He said, "You have the problem and the issues of the charter school. Which is taking millions of dollars from us at a time where we're under-funded to begin with."

The Utica city school district is the 5th poorest in the state and can't require much support from the tax payers.

And it's growing, adding 889 students over the past six years.

These circumstances force the district to rely significantly on state aid, which has been frozen since 2008.

"So you get more students but you're not getting the aid. The aid stays frozen and this is over those years and adds up to 62-million dollars," said Karam.

That's not the only place the district has been shorted funds. The state aid planning office at BOCES did an analysis and found the school district has lost $24 million over the last four to five years because of the state's gap elimination adjustment.

The future isn't looking good for the Utica School District. Superintendent Karam says either they get additional funding from the state, or they'll be looking at insolvency over the next couple of years.

"There's nowhere else to cut after this. There's absolutely nowhere else. We will not have enough teachers for classrooms, we will not have enough course offerings," he said.

District officials say they've done everything they can to craft this budget to meet all mandates while also thinking about the taxpayers. Superintendent Karam says all they can do is wait and hope the state's budget is in their favor.

Combining this year's cuts with the layoffs proposed for next year, the school would lose a total of 185 faculty and staff. As a result, classroom sizes are expected to grow as big 33 students in some classes.

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