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City : Falling short: City School District Superintendent proposes budget with $35 million deficit

Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras presented her budget last week with a spending plan of $373 million.

Contreras’ proposed budget would increase spending for the district by approximately 12 percent for 2012-13, but has a $35.1 million deficit, according to a Feb. 9 article by The Post-Standard.

A large amount of the spending growth in the new budget comes from increased costs in pension, health benefits and raises that already have been negotiated, said District Chief Financial Officer Suzanne Slack in the article.

Contreras said she wants to increase spending in certain areas to improve the struggling district, which has a graduation rate of less than 50 percent, according to the article. She said she wants to spend $5.4 million more on teacher training and support, instructional resources, development of a core curriculum and related testing, and on managing the curriculum. While $1.4 million of the spending would come from grants, most of the spending would come from the district’s budget, according to the article.

The increased spending for the new budget is built on the expectation that the district will get the amount of state operating aid proposed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The proposed amount would be an increase of $5 million, or 2.4 percent from the current year, according to the article.

‘The district has a chance of coming out a bit better this year with this budget, but it’s still going to be tough,’ said Commissioner of Education Michelle Mignano.

Mignano said the district’s budget continues to be a problem because the district continues to grow without an equal growth in revenue.

‘We have more kids and programs than we did a few years ago, but we don’t have the adequate funding to support this growth,’ Mignano said.

Last year’s shrinking budget resulted in a cut of 464 jobs in the district, which is something the district does not want to repeat, said Mignano.

Mignano said it is too early to determine whether job cuts in the school district will be necessary, but they will be considered if the district is left with no other answers.

‘If there aren’t any other options, then we’ll have to look into minimizing, but that’s not what our kids need,’ Mignano said. ‘Our kids don’t need less people to help them; they need support. They need people to be there for them.’

Mignano said it is also too early to know where the district will get funding to close its $35.1 million deficit. Most of the district’s revenue comes from state and city funding. The state is currently in the process of creating its own budget, but Mignano said the district expects to receive the same amount of city funding that it did this year.

The school board’s budget and finance committee held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss Contreras’ proposed budget, and the school board will decide if changes need to be made to the budget. The mayor and the Syracuse Common Council will then vote on the proposed budget this May, Mignano said.

adhitzle@syr.edu

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