Voters in the North Syracuse Central School District rejected the proposed $144 million 2013-14 budget Tuesday, forcing the district to rework the proposal before presenting it again next month.
North Syracuse had requested a 5.33 percent tax increase. Voters rejected the budget by a margin of 1,989 to 1,680, which didn’t reach the required supermajority for approval.
The presented budget would have brought full-day kindergarten to the district. It also called for the elimination of 14.5 positions. The district has cut more than 200 positions in the last five years.
North Syracuse’s budget was the only budget in Onondaga County rejected by voters this year.
In addition, Catherine Cifaratta-Brayton, Mary Scanlon and Patrick Svoboda were elected to the board of education, receiving 2,028, 2,470 and 2,515 votes, respectively. Sandra DiBianco was not reelected.
Superintendent Dr. Kim Dyce Faucette acknowledged that this was a difficult budget year.
“North Syracuse felt the impact and was forced to make some very difficult decisions in its budget deliberations,” Dyce said. “We know that our voters had to do the same thing today … this was not an easy decision for anyone. Of course we are disappointed that the proposed budget was rejected. But we will take this feedback, reconvene and move forward toward a successful budget that provides the best education possible for our students.”
Board of Education President Pat Carbone echoed Dyce’s statement.
“We knew that attaining 60 percent approval would not be easy,” Carbone said. “While we are disappointed at the outcome, we will use what we have learned and take the next steps to provide a budget that the community can support and that ensures our students receive a great education.”
If the board of education opts for a revote on June 18 and that budget is defeated, the board must adopt a budget with a tax levy no greater than what was levied the previous year, a $0 increase. This would mean the district would have to make an additional $4,047,682 in cuts, including the elimination of athletic programs and extra-curricular activities; additional administrative cuts, including the assistant director of special education; a school resource officer proposed in the budget would not be added; a social worker proposed in the budget would not be added; and the elimination of additional teacher positions, which would result in larger class sizes at all grade levels.
The board was forced to adopt a contingency budget in the 2011-12 budget cycle.
According to the New York State School Boards Association, the defeat of the North Syracuse budget fell in line with a statewide trend. While voters approved 95.5 percent of budgets across the state, only 29.6 percent of districts whose budgets exceeded the tax cap passed theirs.
Schools statewide proposed an average tax levy increase of 2.8 percent for 2013-14, well below the average statewide tax levy limit of 5.1 percent.
The average proposed spending increase for the 2013-14 school year is 2.9 percent, compared to 1.5 percent in 2012-13, 1.3 percent in 2011-12, 1.4 percent in 2010-11, 2.3 percent in 2009-10, and 5.3 percent in 2008-09. The increase was driven in large part by increases in school district pension costs.
In addition, a number of voters complained that they had to wait for more than an hour to cast their ballot at Cicero Elementary.
“The North Syracuse Central School District would like to apologize to community members that had negative voting experiences during yesterday’s school budget vote and board member election,” the district said in a statement released Wednesday, May 22. “Many voters at Cicero Elementary School experienced long lines and extended delays as they attempted to cast their ballots. While some people opted to forgo their vote altogether, a great deal of community members spent a significant amount of time waiting to vote.”
The release noted that the board approved a new voting system in January as well as extending the voting time by three hours. The district had asked that multiple scanners be placed at Cicero El, but the request wasn’t met.
“We know that what happened at Cicero Elementary School yesterday was inexcusable and we apologize to our voters,” Dyce said. “We will look at all the ways that we can completely alleviate issues next year, including de-centralized voting, more equipment and other options.”
Voters did approve the Salina Free Library’s budget.
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.