Representatives of the city's schools spoke at length about their $96.29 million request from the city's taxpayers at the council's budget hearing Wednesday night.
But the second question of the night quickly got to the point: If we cut your budget, where will you then make cuts?
Those weren't Councilman Pedro Segarra's exact words, but that was the tone of much of the hearing that followed -- until Cityline had to call it a night.
By now, the story should be familiar -- Mayor Eddie A. Perez has proposed a $547.6 million budget with a hefty tax increase of roughly 13 percent on the average homeowner.
Apparently anticipating the question from Segarra, Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski answered this way.
Let's say you cut our $3 million contingency fund, he said. The board spends 70 percent of its budget in the city's schools, and 30 percent in administration. That would mean that 70 percent of the $3 million would come as reductions to the school budgets; the rest, Adamowski said, would come from administration, including transportation.
He'd rather not find the money in personnel. Instead, Adamowski said he'd prefer to cut the school year than lay people off midway through it. (The board is cutting more than 200 positions now.)
"We've reached the conclusion that it's better to operate less than to operate at a level lower than the one that has been proposed in this budget," Adamowski said.
Students, he said, "need to be in a stable environment where we're not making staff changes and reductions mid-year."
The city council has its last departmental budget hearing tonight.