North Syracuse Central School District Superintendent Dr. Kim Dyce Faucette presented a bleak picture of the district’s financial future if the state doesn’t make serious changes to its school aid policy at a meeting of the board of education Monday night.
“Our sources of funding are inadequate,” Dyce said. “Operating costs… are growing significantly faster than our revenue. Our state aid is the same as it was five years ago. The tax cap discourages our taxpayers from covering the deficit caused by increased costs and insufficient state aid. Our financial model is not sustainable.”
The 2013-14 budget Dyce presented calls for $138.7 million in expenditures and a 3.53 percent tax increase ($2,681,766 over last year), as well as $4.5 million in cuts. According to the presentation, the district’s revenues in the next fiscal year total $1.8 million, while its expenses total $6.3 million. The budget proposed eliminates band and orchestra at the elementary level, uses a significant portion of the district’s dwindling fund balance, cuts athletic and co-curricular programs, eliminates electives at the secondary level and increases class sizes in third through 12th grades.
The budget is also significant for what it adds: a full-day kindergarten program. There will be a one-time conversion cost of $3,250,966, for which the district can receive state aid, plus additional teacher costs of $1.2 million to $1.4 million over the next four years.
“Early childhood education is the key to success,” Dyce said in her presentation. “Students need strong literacy and math skills.”
In addition, because the district has cut more than 200 teachers over the last three years, the schools are struggling with scheduling and instruction. As such, Dyce’s proposal adds AIS teachers at the elementary level and seeks to address staffing issues at all levels.
In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Dyce also wants to add a school resource officer at all secondary buildings, as well as full-time social workers at secondary buildings.
As a way to cut costs, the district will examine the governor’s pension funding alternative, which would allow them to defer about $3 million in pension costs next year.
As it stands, North Syracuse spends less per pupil than nearly all schools covered by Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES, at a rate of $14,306. That number is also the lowest among school districts its size.
Dyce’s budget projections paint a portrait of a dreary future in the district. Because the district has relied so heavily on its fund balance in the last few years, and if state aid doesn’t increase, the district faces a deficit of $30,024,949 by 2017.
“New York state needs to increase funding for public education,” she said. “That’s the only answer.”
The entire budget proposal is available on the district’s web site. The board must adopt a budget by April 22; it will go to a vote on May 21.
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.