The North Syracuse Central School District unveiled the draft of its 2019-20 budget at the March 4 meeting of the board of education. As it stands, the district is facing a $1.3 million shortfall.
Don Keegan, associate superintendent for business services, called New York state’s projected allocation for foundation aid “disappointing” despite the promise of a new funding formula.
“I think the legislature is keenly aware of funding inequity across the state,” he said, adding that a third of school districts are projected to receive more state aid than the current formula calls for.
Of the eight largest school districts in Onondaga County, North Syracuse is the second-poorest, behind only the Syracuse City School District.
“Right now, we’re in a tough spot,” Keegan said.
The tax cap for the 2019-20 fiscal year is 2.77 percent. Based on this tax increase, a homeowner whose property is assessed at $100,000 can expect to pay an additional $66 in school taxes.
Another factor that impacts North Syracuse’s financial hardships is a shrinking student body and tax base. Daniel Bowles, associate superintendent for teaching and learning, said North Syracuse is facing a modest decrease in enrollment, but he assured the BOE, “It’s nothing near what other districts are experiencing.”
Bowles said increasing development in Cicero and Clay should strengthen the tax base.
“We’re looking to see if there will be a resurgence along the Route 31 area,” he said.
Among the highlights of the first draft of North Syracuse’s budget are:
• Total expenditures: Keegan estimated the district’s expenditures at $166,256,701, about $3 million more than the current year. That’s a 1.87 percent spending increase.
• Vehicle proposition: The district is hoping to purchase 13 vehicles for $1,506,092, which equals a $1.80 tax impact on a $100,000 home. North Syracuse will start to transition its fleet from diesel to gasoline engines, which Keegan said are more efficient for stop-and-go traffic. Gas is cheaper than diesel fuel as well. “Gasoline engine technology has really come a long way,” Keegan said.
• Fund balance: Thanks to the state’s refund of a penalty levied against North Syracuse for administrative errors, the district’s fund balance received a boost and is expected to total $8,719,298 by the end of this school year. However, at 5.34 percent of the budget, this exceeds the 4 percent maximum recommended by the state.
• Vision 2020: The 2019-20 budget includes a revamped middle school schedule that integrates band, orchestra and chorus into the school day and expands opportunities for students to get extra help during the day. Other Vision 2020 initiatives include the addition of new career and technical education (CTE) courses and more counselors and social workers at the elementary level.
“We are hopeful our aid will increase by the time the budget is finalized,” Keegan said.
The state budget is due April 1. The North Syracuse BOE is scheduled to approve the school budget that same day. Residents of the district will vote on the school budget and BOE on May 21.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.