Almost every school budget discussion has been controversial this year, but Liverpool School Superintendent Dr. Richard Johns recently said his district's budget has something for everyone to hate. It has been a difficult process to get it ready for a vote - and the results are not guaranteed.
The Liverpool Central School District is seeking $133.2 million for the upcoming school year. To get to that figure the district had to make a number of controversial steps, including the closure of Wetzel Road Elementary School, the canceling of its pre-kindergarten program and the elimination of more than 130 faculty and staff positions.
Despite those measures, some Liverpool residents like Tom Gagliardo still think the district is asking for too much money. "Go through your taxes. Go through your state and federal taxes, your fees, your registrations. 50 percent of your income is coming out of your pocket for taxes. It's gotta stop," Gagliardo says.
But others like Michael Coyne, whose four daughters all graduated from Liverpool High School, thinks the district is doing everything it can to present a fair budget. "They've cut 139 positions, they are going to close one elementary school and they are reducing or eliminating pre-K. I think under the circumstances that we should be able to support the school system and give the children a chance for a good education," Coyne says.
The pending school budget vote was the talk of Liverpool on Monday night. Jennifer Tiano and her family moved to Liverpool two years ago. She's been very happy with the school system and she's hoping the town is willing to accept a tax hike to support them.
"I think a lot of people are thinking no because they're stretched to the limits in the lower class and lower middle income. They're automatically going to say no and not think of all the cutbacks," said Tiano.
Liverpool's plan to close Wetzel Road Elementary and eventually develop specialized academies at the high school has been controversial. Fred Haggett's son goes to Wetzel Road but he supports the proposed budget and thinks the School Board is making the best of a bad situation.
"Change is hard but you just hope in the end it works. We have a six year old in first grade and we're hoping in time - when he gets to the high school - it will be something that will help him out," said Haggett.
Some Liverpool parents are more skeptical. Frank Garland wants his children to go to quality schools but also believes the school district needs to focus on balancing their budget and do a better job at living within their means.
"That's the biggest issue," said Garland. "We spent all this money and now we're short because you promised programs. It's like government in general - promise the world and then when things get rough you raise everybody's taxes."
There is a new voting location for those in the Liverpool School District this year. From 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday residents can vote in the Liverpool High School gymnasium.
In a statement to the media Tuesday regarding the vote, Johns said "I am happy to report that today's vote is running smoothly at Liverpool High School. While there has been a steady stream of Liverpool Central School District residents stopping at LHS to cast their ballots, voters have been able to vote right away and not endure lengthy waits."