North Syracuse faces yet another school budget with cuts

Mar 28, 2014

Onondaga County's second largest school district is dealing with yet another budget shortfall, and that likely will mean another round of staff layoffs.

The North Syracuse School District has already eliminated a fifth of its staff in the past six years. But it's not been enough to keep up with a declining student enrollment and a reduction in state education aid of more than $6 million.

As a result, it needs to shave $2 million from next year's budget, according to assistant superintendent Don Keegan. He proposed cutting another 30 employees, which he calls a "challenging situation."

Residents last year voted down raising property taxes by about 5 percent, a move Keegan says would have likely saved this year's cuts. North Syracuse may be the largest suburban district in the county, but it's far from the wealthiest.

Keegan says they likely won't go to voters looking for an increase in property taxes again. And he says the cutbacks mean students get shortchanged. 

"It means fewer offerings for students," he said. "Our mission is to prepare kids for a rigorous college education, or to prepare them for the workplace, for careers. And as resources are constrained, so are opportunities for students."

John Kuryla, president of the North Syracuse Education Association, which represents teachers, points the finger at the reduction in state aid, known as gas elimination.

"The revenue stream for North Syracuse has really been brought down to a very small drip out of the revenue faucet, but our costs have not gone done," he said.

Kuryla says the district already spends the least per pupil in the county.

With a minimal fund balance, Keegan says there is little he or the school board could do to reduce the deficit, which means the staff cuts will likely stay.

The school board will vote on whether or not to adopt the budget on April 7. It will then hold a public hearing and send the budget to voters on May 20.