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Residents address Iroquois budget; District hears praise and protest

At the Iroquois Central School District budget hearing Wednesday, it was a tale of two mindsets: those who thought the district hadn't done enough to bring in a low tax levy, and those grateful the district saved as many programs as it could.

Superintendent Douglas Scofield reviewed the proposed $43.5 million budget, with a tax levy increase of 3.42 percent, highlighting that nine staff and one administrative position were cut in the process. Meanwhile, all athletic programs, including modified sports, and all current extracurricular programs, including clubs, were maintained.

One resident, who said he'd never been to a meeting before, told district officials he was angry that more administrative personnel weren't cut, including the superintendent and assistant principals. He also assailed the district for having a bus fleet, saying the district should sell the buses and contract out transportation.

When the superintendent said the district only controlled about $2.5 million of the budget after mandated and contractual items were removed, the resident told Scofield he didn't believe him.

On the other side of the spectrum were residents such as Sharon Szeglowski, who said she'd been unhappy with the more than $2.2 million in cuts the district has made to programs in recent years. She said she wanted the district to go above the tax cap this year, but she found the process through which the district developed its budget, including four public workshops, enlightening.

"I listened and learned. This is a perfect example of democracy. The 3.42 percent budget doesn't give me everything I wanted, but handing the district a blank check isn't right either. This budget is the epitome of compromise. It's not a budget of one voice, but a meeting in the middle," Szeglowski said.

The superintendent also read a letter from David Smith, in which the resident expressed his "displeasure" with the tax levy, saying he'd have preferred the district start at a 2 percent levy and work down from there.

An Iroquois alumna and mother of two said she felt the district was already at "bare bones." She thanked the school board for keeping the children first and foremost in the budget process.

Last year, the district was one of three in Western New York where the budget was defeated. This year's vote is May 15.