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More cuts possible for the Syracuse City School District

Nearly 100 positions could be cut from the Syracuse School District without the help of more state aid. Board members got a look at the budget plan for the first time Wednesday night.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Enrollment in Syracuse schools will rise next year, at a time when the district is struggling to cut costs and improve test scores.

"The old saying is, there is no more blood in that stone. We are actually getting to levels right now where we'd be below our mandatory levels in terms of staffing,” said School Board Member Calvin Corriders.

Another 63 employees could be cut if the latest budget plan passes, including a mix of management, operations, and teaching staff. Some of those workers may retire and other jobs could be restored with more state aid. But, the bottom line isn't bright. The Syracuse central school district has cut more than 950 positions in the past four years.

"We're starting to cut into our core business of teaching and learning, which is harmful to students. So I ask that the public please advocate on behalf of the Syracuse City School District and continue to call legislators,” said Superintendent Sharon Contreras.

Contreras says the budget proposal presented on Wednesday night is a worst case scenario. Adjustments are expected once state lawmakers finalize the distribution of aid. A larger battle looms as schools across New York compete for grants.

For every dollar the Syracuse Central School District spends on salaries, another 63-cents is spent on benefits. Pension contribution rates are expected to be three times higher than they were a few years ago.

Kevin Ahern, President of the Syracuse Teachers Association, says teachers worked long and hard to earn their benefits. He blames state lawmakers for creating a funding formula that put high-need schools like Syracuse in a budget crunch for years.

"The funding for this school district is patently unfair and has been for years. The courts decided that in New York several years ago. We are chronically under-funded as a result of this formula,” said Syracuse Teachers Association President Kevin Ahern.

The outlook has Tania Anderson worried about her first-grader's future.

"It is getting to the point where you are cutting to the bone and you can't cut any further. You can't push people so much, so far, for so long,” Anderson said.

Parents will get a chance to weigh in on the budget at two public hearings set for February 25 and March 7. Mayor Stephanie Miner and Syracuse common councilors are expected to approve a budget by May.

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