2013-14 Proposed Budget
Superintendent Sharon Contreras presented the 2013-14 Syracuse City School District proposed budget to the Board of Education at the February Board of Education meeting. The proposed budget focuses on improving student achievement and is aligned to the goals, timelines, strategic initiatives and educational outcomes in the strategic plan, Great Expectations.
To view the legislative contact sheet please click here
Budget Questions and Answers
We encourage the community to submit questions regarding the 2013-14 budget. To submit your questions to the Chief Financial Officer click here. Answers to these questions will be posted for everyone to view.
Q. Would you please describe the steps being taken to address the increasing pension and health care costs the district must budget for so that it will not have to continue to cut teaching positions and increase class sizes each year for the foreseeable future?
A. First, to address the increasing pension costs I need to clarify that the state determines a rate each year that is assessed to municipalities and school districts to deposit into the pension fund. This rate is set by actuaries, who determine how much needs to be contributed annually to fund the future pension payments due to retirees. This rate is multiplied by our total salaries paid to give a dollar amount to deposit in the pension fund. In the past several years this rate has increased at alarming rates. These increases have left the Syracuse City School District with the issue of how to pay for increased costs, which outpace our revenues. The only factor that the District controls in the equation is our salaries. Over the past several budget years we have asked employees and unions for wage freezes or wage concessions and more than half of our staff has taken these. In addition, we continue to reduce positions and that reduces our overall salary expense. This budget cycle we have 0% and 2% raises in the budget based on contracts with our current collective bargaining units.
Second, as you note health care costs are rising sharply year after year as well. We are in the process of talking to our union representatives about health care cost containment measures that will reduce the district's overall cost and provide additional wellness benefits to employees. We are also in the process of bidding our health care this year. Our union representatives must agree to this change.
The classroom staffing has been modified to adhere to our contractual class size agreements by grade level with smaller class sizes in Kindergarten and in grades 1 - 2.
Q. How can 96 positions be eliminated and only 63 people laid off? Why is there a gap of 36? Are there employees in the District that earn more than one paycheck?
A. This question is in reference to the proposed elimination of 95.7 FTE's resulting in an estimated layoff of 63 people from slide 43 of the Public Hearing Presentation. The first column references full-time equivalent position reductions and the last two columns reference people regardless of whether they are working in full or part-time positions. The positions reduced are in terms of a full-time equivalent position or FTE. An FTE is 1.0 for a full-time position and an FTE is less than 1.0 for a part-time position. There can be three part-time positions all working 20 hours per week, which is ½ time or 0.5 FTE. So in this scenario we could eliminate three ½ time positions, or 1.5 FTE's (3 x 0.5 = 1.5 FTE's), which could result in 3 people losing their jobs.
When positions are eliminated they may or may not result in a layoff. If 5 positions are eliminated and 5 staff members in these job titles have submitted for retirement, then it is likely that no one would be laid-off who have the same tenure area or job duties. If a math teacher retires and an English teacher position has been eliminated, then the English teacher may be laid off because they cannot fill a math teaching position. Although we are eliminating 95.7 positions, we believe we will have approximately 94 vacant positions by June primarily due to pending retirements. Unfortunately these vacant positions are not all aligned to the positions reduced so we anticipate up to 63 people being laid off in June.
Q. President Obama wants universal Pre-K for all students in the U.S. How is the district going to address Pre-K staffing needs?
A. The district is committed to providing every child with the opportunity for academic success starting with Pre-K and continuing throughout their academic career. The district is providing the same levels of Pre-K services to the community with the addition of two full-day Pre-K classes next year. If grant funds become available to fund additional Pre-K classrooms the district will apply for these funds.
Q. How many special education teachers will be cut in the proposed budget?
A. The budget proposal is providing the same levels of service to our special needs students. Staffing adjustments are made each year to accommodate the changing needs of our students as they progress from grade to grade, move from building to building or are promoted from elementary to middle and high school.