Syracuse City Schools could cut 96 positions as a part of 2013-2014 budget

The Syracuse City School District School Board proposes position reductions as a part of their 2013-2014 budget

The Syracuse City School District School Board presented their proposed 2013-2014 budget on Wednesday night, and after about 950 positions have been cut in the past four years, that number could reach 1,000 if the latest proposal goes through.

As a part of the proposed budget, the School Board proposed to cut 95 positions in their schools, including as many as 22 teachers. The board says they are fighting a deficit from previous years, and that is just one of the obstacles they face.

"The most challenging thing is the rising costs," Calvin Corriders, who's been on the board for 14 years, says. "Particularly our health care costs, they're just exploding."

Before the budget was even presented to the public, Syracuse Teacher's Association president Kevin Ahern spoke to the nearly 100 in attendance, saying, "We need to understand that we are in a crisis here in this school district, not of our own making, a federally and state mandated crisis."

Both the district and Ahern say they need more help from the government, and that Governor Cuomo's recent education proposals help, but are not enough to change the current trend of layoffs and position cuts. The district says his proposal to "smooth" the increase of pension costs by delaying payments to later years helps now, but they are skeptical on how that will affect the future.

Sharon Contreras, Syracuse City School District Superintendent, says she does not think they should have to compete for funds that she thinks the students need. She addressed Cuomo's proposal of $203 million in "fiscal stabilization funding", which would be divided among the roughly 700 districts in the state.

"I think the proposal does not go far enough," she says. "I think those competitive grants should be placed in the foundation aid for high-need school districts."

Ahern says the whole system is flawed.

"The funding formula for schools statewide is broken and does not work," he says. "It needs to be changed, and we need to have the political courage in Albany to actually do that."

The School Board is offering two public hearings on the proposed budget. The first is Monday, February 25th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the second is on Thursday, March 7th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Each will be held at the Syracuse City School Board Room on Harrison Street.