North Syracuse School District approves contingency budget with a tax increase

Crowds gather to hear what's next for the North Syracuse School District after taxpayers voted down the original budget. / Alex Dunbar

In an emotional, sometimes tearful meeting, the North Syracuse School Board unanimously approved a contingency budget after voters rejected a proposed five percent tax hike. The contingency budget is only $117,000 less than the proposed budget of $136,601,471 that was voted down and taxes will still go up by more than 5%.

Superintendent Jerome Melvin said that years of reductions in state aid and cuts by the district meant the district only had to make cuts to equipment purchases, non-union staff raises and community use of buildings. Melvin said the proposed budget that was defeated was more than a million below the contingency level.

"What has been happening here at all these school districts that had budgets defeated, they all have the same problem. They are all below contingency so there isn't much left to cut legally as far as the state is concerned," said Superintendent Dr. Jerome Melvin.

The board had the option of presenting another budget with more cuts. Board members said they respected the taxpayers who voted against the tax increase but said they could not make any more cuts in good conscience. Many parents in the crowd were relieved to hear that board members wouldn't cut even deeper.

"I really didn't want to see any more programs or staffing positions cut or anything like that," said parent Jennifer Bick.

"I think that the kids really deserve the things in the district we have to offer," said parent Mary Ellen Williams.

North Syracuse's state aid was cut by more than $7 million last year and the district has eliminated more than 200 positions in the past three years to trim their budget. As current Cicero North Syracuse senior John Lecorazza watched the budget discussion, he worried about the school's future and his own.

"I want to go to school for teaching, I want to be a history teacher so it's kind of tough thinking that in a couple of years I'm going to be going into the market, trying to be a teacher and all these cuts may still be going on or maybe worse," said Lecorazza.

The North Syracuse board will ask voters to take another look at a proposal to buy 12 school buses. The same proposal that failed last week will be back up for a vote on June 12th. The board says they want to make it clear to voters that the purchase will only cost 41 cents for a $100,000 home.

After taxpayers voted down the North Syracuse School District's budget, school officials have taken action of their own.

On Monday night, the school board approved a contingency budget. CNYCentral's Alex Dunbar reports it's $117,000 less than the original proposed budget. It still includes a tax increase of more than 5%.

We'll have more on this story on the CW6 News at 10, and NBC3 and CBS5 News at 11.