After last week’s revelation that, without significant cuts, North Syracuse school district residents will face a 12.7 tax levy increase, department heads approached the Board of Education with their own proposals to cut costs.
At the March 5 North Syracuse Central School District Board of Education meeting, representatives from the athletic and physical education department, business office, office of professional development, special education department, mathematics and business department and technology department explained their costs, presented their 2012-13 budgets and offered suggestions for potential savings.
The preliminary 2012-13 budget, as presented on Feb. 27 by Superintendent Dr. Kim Dyce Faucette and Assistant Superintendent for Management Don Keegan stands at $143,186,335, representing a 4.9 percent increase from 2011-12, or $6,701,864. According to Dyce Faucette, in the past three years, revenues have declined, costs have increased, expenditures have been cut $15.2 million, 200 positions eliminated and the burden of funding schools has shifted from the state and federal government to the taxpayer.
Athletics and physical education
The vast majority of the athletic department’s budget — 70 percent, or $686,217 — goes toward coaching salaries. That figure has gone up 4.2 percent since the 2011-12 budget, or $27,975. According to the presentation, coaching salaries “should remain the same. If they rise, it is because of coaches dropping out and new ones hired at a higher rate.”
Additional variances in the athletic budget fell under equipment and general supplies, which went up by a total of $41,000. The presentation noted that the amount was still less than 50 percent of what was there two years ago, “just to help teams with the essentials.”
Meanwhile, the physical education budget held steady at the 2011-12 levels.
Suggestions to cut costs included cutting varsity assistant coaches in football, soccer (both boys’ and girls’), field hockey and lacrosse (again, for both sexes) at a savings of $30,531.50, as well as cutting the following modified teams: one softball, one boys’ basketball, one girls’ basketball, one football and one girls’ volleyball. Those cuts would generate a total savings of $26,603.20 in coaching salaries, officials and transportation.
“The athletic department has taken large cuts in the past two years,” the presentation noted. “This being the third year, we would even [out] all sports teams across the program. The sports program is less than 1 percent of the school’s total budget, which services more than 2,300 students [in grades] seven through 12.”
The business office has managed to cut its costs, reducing its overall budget by 2.5 percent. However, the business office’s presentation also included information on the district’s debt service and benefits. Costs in both of those areas went up. For example, the district is now responsible for making payments on the B.A.N. principal for the Smith Road renovations as well as bus purchases.
Meanwhile, rate increases in the retirement system drove up costs in benefits, and increased participation meant health insurance costs were higher.
The presentation suggested reducing the number of covered employees in order to reduce benefit costs. Otherwise, there was little that could be done; many of this office’s costs are under state control.
Costs for professional development remained constant from 2011-12 to 2012-13. Financial support for these activities come from a range of funding sources, including Title I and Title IIA, Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants and AFT and NYSUT grants. Savings, however, can be realized by taking advantage of training before and after school so that substitute teachers don’t have to be utilized.
A number of budgets fall under the heading of “special education.” There is the general Special Education budget, psychological services and social work. The latter two fall under the heading of the former.
In the psychological services budget, salaries were reduced by 3.6 percent, and the social work budget remained steady from last year to this one.
Though there were some fluctuations in the general special education budget, major savings came through a 95.2 percent reduction in equipment costs when special education was moved under the “Health and Safety” heading, allowing for increased flexibility. Thus the overall special education budget only increased by 0.6 percent.
Mathematics and business
Though the math budget showed a 0 percent increase from 2011-12 to 2012-13, the department did offer suggestions to cut costs. They included:
Eliminating the SAT Prep course
Reducing sections in the following courses (increase class size):
Algebra 2/Trig Honors
Alternate Computer electives (six total) every other year
The business department had the following suggestions to save money:
Eliminate the Career Center at the junior high
Eliminate the following courses due to low enrollment:
Personal Financial Literacy
Offer “Understanding Today’s Business World” and “Financial Analysis” every other year
The tech department reduced its budget by 1.3 percent by relying on state-aided materials and reducing salaries. In addition, the library media budget has held steady since last year.
The board will hold additional meetings to discuss the proposed budget at 7 p.m. March 12 and 26 and April 16. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 8.
The board will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 19 in the auditorium of the North Syracuse Junior High School, 5353 W. Taft Road.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.