Taxpayers in North Syracuse are looking at a 2.25 percent increase for the 2014-15 school year, according to the initial budget presented to the North Syracuse Central School District Board of Education Monday, Feb. 24.
According to the presentation, given by Assistant Superintendent for Management Donald Keegan, the district is facing a 3.6 percent decrease in building aid from New York state. That coupled with increased costs in salaries, benefits, equipment and BOCES shared services agreements have resulted in the need to increase the tax levy by $1,763,319, while cutting programs by $1,716,879. The total budget proposed for 2014-15 is $145,479,106, a 1.4 percent budget-to-budget increase from last year.
The district will also rely on $2 million from its fund balance to help offset some of its costs. Last year, the NSCSD used $700,000 from its fund balance.
In his presentation, Keegan pointed out that the current financial model faced by the district is unsustainable. While enrollments are declining at a rate of 160 students per year, costs continue to rise on every front. Meanwhile, state aid isn’t increasing enough to keep up.
“New York state needs to increase funding for public education,” Keegan said in his presentation. “The Gap Elimination Adjustment needs to be paid to districts.”
The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) was instituted by the Cuomo administration in the 2009-10 school year to help the state fill its revenue shortfall. Essentially, the state allocates a certain amount of aid to schools each year, then takes away a portion of that aid through the GEA. If the amount of state aid allocated to schools exceeds the projected growth in the state’s personal income, regardless of the need projected by schools, the GEA is increased to contain overall growth within legislated limits. If state aid increases are less than that limit or of legislators choose to exceed the state aid cap, the GEA can be decreased. However, the GEA generally remains at the same levels year to year.
Keegan also suggested that local taxpayers would have to share some of the burden, noting that a levy increase beyond the 2 percent tax cap might be necessary.
The district will continue to discuss the budget for next few months. On March 3 and 10, the individual departments will discuss their budgets. The board will adopt a final budget April 7. A public hearing will be held May 6 and voters will decide on it May20.
In addition, the district will hold a public information session at 11 a.m. March 6 at the district office.
To view Keegan’s presentation, visit nscsd.org.
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.