Syracuse borrows millions to sustain school budget

Apr 19, 2012

The decision for the Syracuse City School District Board of Education Wednesday night was between borrowing millions or cutting hundreds of jobs. Board members chose to balance a $366 million budget by whipping out the credit card.

Board member Stephen Swift capsulized the mixed emotions of the school board in one statement.

“This is fiscal suicide, but in an attempt to help our children. We must do it,” Swift said.

The board approved Superintendent Sharon Contreras’ proposed budget that borrows $24 million dollars against next year’s state aid to get out of the red. Without that borrowing, Contreras says the district would need to lay off 350 more teachers. That is something board member Patricia Body couldn’t agree too.

“I cannot vote for anything that will lay off any more positions than we’ve already decided to lay off. I do not believe our school district could survive,” Body said.

The spending plan does eliminate 150 positions, many at Elmwood Elementary school which will be closed under the plan. At the same time, the plan increases spending by 9.5% over last year. This is in part due to education initiatives meant to improve performance in district schools. That increase, in the face of a budget collapse, is the reason Max Ruckdeschel cast the only no vote.

“I cannot vote in favor of a budget unless it cuts the increase in our spending to a more sustainable rate, a rate that we can actually think about sustaining past next year,” Ruckdeschel said.

Now it’s up to Syracuse Common Councilors to vote on the spending plan which ultimately ends up on Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s desk.