Frequently Asked Questions About the SCSD Budget

What are the steps in the budget development process?
  • In October, the Syracuse City School District prepares a preliminary rollover budget based on the current year’s expenditures and known changes in the upcoming fiscal year (based on existing contractual obligations). This rollover budget also considers the impact of changes to current spending, such as reducing or increasing programs and services.
  • In January, the Governor releases the New York State Executive Budget. This budget includes the School State Aid Runs, which are used as the basis for calculating expected revenue from state aid in the upcoming fiscal year.
  • The district then calculates any funding gap or surplus, and creates a plan to balance the budget. This is the basis for the SCSD Proposed Budget.
  • Public Budget Hearings are held to give the citizens of Syracuse the opportunity to comment on the district’s budget.
  • The Board of Education approves the budget for submission to the Mayor’s office. As a dependent school district, the SCSD budget is included in the City of Syracuse’s budget.
  • At the end of March, The New York State Assembly and New York State Senate approve the New York State Legislative Budget. This budget includes revised School State Aid Runs based on the Legislative Budget.
  • Based on the revenue impact of the School State Aid Runs, adjustments are made to the SCSD Budget. These changes are the basis for the SCSD Adopted Budget.
  • The Board of Education adopts the final SCSD Adopted Budget.
  • The Syracuse Common Council holds public budget hearings and adopts the City of Syracuse budget, which includes the SCSD budget. Budget amendments, if any, are done if needed.
I’ve heard that Syracuse is a “Big 5” district. What does this mean?
New York State school districts with population over 125,000 are called the “Big 5” districts. In addition to Syracuse, the other “Big 5” districts are Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers, and New York City.

Here are some differences between the “Big 5” and other districts in New York State:
“Big 5” Districts Other Districts
  • Population over 125K
  • Population less than 125K
  • Education function is part of overall city government
  • Not part of municipal government
  • Board and district cannot levy taxes or incur debt
  • Have power to levy taxes and incur debt
  • Boundaries coterminous with city served
  • May not be coterminous, or may include more than one municipality
  • Budget approved annually by Board of Education and by city government
  • Budget approved by voters in annual vote
  • Board of Education members elected (Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo) or appointed (Yonkers and New York City)
  • Board of Education members elected
From what sources does the Syracuse City School District get its revenue?
  • Approximately 75.1%, or $294.9 million of the Syracuse City School District’s General Fund Budget is from State Aid
  • The remainder is from other sources, including a $57.9 million school tax levy
What does the Syracuse City School District spend money on?
  • 71 cents of every dollar we receive is spent on teachers and staff - there is one employee for every 6 students in the District
  • 21 cents of every dollar is spent on services such as bussing, mentoring, training, student advocates, utilities (heat, electricity), software, coaches, insurance
  • 3 cents of every dollar is spent on books, supplies, computers and materials
  • 5 cents of every dollar is spent on debt for money borrowed to pay for building renovations and cash
How are financial and staff resources allocated to the schools?  What factors are considered when making these allocations?
Financial and staff resources are allocated to schools based on multiple factors. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Enrollment: Instructional staffing levels are tied to enrollment by school and grade level. Schools also receive a portion of their instructional supply allocations on a per pupil basis.
  • Pupil Need: Schools with higher pupil need (Special Education, ELL students, free or reduced price lunch, etc.) receive additional staffing and supply allocations
  • Type of School: Elementary, Middle, K-8, High School, and Alternative Programs each contain different grade level mixes of students. Financial and staff allocations also consider the type of program when making these allocations.
How does the annual budget relate to the District’s five-year strategic plan, Great Expectations?
During each year’s budget development process, the Budget Department asks each department to align expected outcomes for budgeted dollars with explicit links to the five-year strategic plan, Great Expectations. This ensures that the district is managing budgeted investments against intended outcomes.

How much grant funding does the district receive each year?  What are the largest funding sources?
  •  The Syracuse City School District received $82 million in Special Aid Revenue for the 2014-15 year.
  • The District receives grant revenue from federal, state, and local sources. The breakdown from each source is the following:
    • Federal: $50.1 million
    • State: $21.5 million
    • Local $10.4 million
  • Grant revenue is from three types of sources:
    • Formula Grants: Allocations based on a formula established by the funder, rather than a competitive process. $38 million or 46% of Special Aid Revenue in 2014-15 was from Formula Grants
    • Competitive Grants: Public or private funding earmarked for special interest established by the funder, such as academic intervention, student nutrition, after-school programming, parent programs, school reform, school safety, and alternative education. The award amount is based on the quality of the application, extent of need, and proposed programmatic solutions. $36.3 million or 44% of Special Aid Revenue in 2014-15 was from Competitive Grants
    • Other Programs: Includes funds from sources as special legislative grants, community-based organizations and institutions of higher education, flow-through funds from BOCES, tuition reimbursement, and non-competitive county/state funding or business partnerships
As a parent of a city school district student, if I choose to send my child to a private institution, is that school able to request state aid that has been allocated to my child?
State aid is provided to public and charter schools, and generally not to private institutions. There are few exceptions for private schools for students with severe hearing or vision loss. 
There is some talk in Albany about the voucher program that would provide some form of funding to private schools, but as of right now there is not a mechanism for private schools to receive public school state aid.