Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Parents in the Syracuse City School District had an opportunity to weigh in Tuesday night on the proposed budget for next year.
The superintendent’s plan would cut more than 150 positions, close an elementary school, and borrow millions in an effort to close the budget gap.
Many parents are coming to terms with the fact that the district has tough choices to make. They place the blame on the state for its lack of funding.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras is proposing a $366 million budget. 153 positions, including 53 teaching positions, would be cut – mostly through retirements. After the retirements, the result would be about 15 layoffs.
Contreras wants to borrow $24 million against future state aid and close the Elmwood Elementary School, a move that would save $3 million.
"It's very frustrating when you know what children need to thrive and you can't provide them with everything you need,” said Superintendent Sharon Contreras.
A mother close to many of the students at Elmwood Elementary says the kids aren’t getting the education they need and deserve because of a lack of money and resources.
“But I need them to be able to speak effectively, to be good spellers, to be good readers," said Twiggy Billue. "And they’re just not doing that right now at Elmwood.”
Parents were adamantly opposed to closing the school when it was proposed for last year’s budget.
But they say the former administration didn’t give them all of the facts at the time. Now they say they’ve had a change of heart and they agree that their children might be better off elsewhere.
"Never one time last year were we told that our kids were in an academic dilemma,” said Billue. "So this year it became a little obvious that we needed to throw a life jacket out quickly to the kids and the teachers."
Aside from closing Elmwood Elementary School, other proposed program cuts include converting the middle and high school block schedule to seven periods and reducing clerical support throughout the district.
The administration is still wary of borrowing $24 million against future state aid.
"It is a risk. If we do not apply for the chapter 1 accrual we will have to eliminate approximately 350 additional jobs. I am not willing to make that recommendation and risk children’s education,” said Contreras.
Some people in the school district’s community are concerned about cutting the ADAPEP program, which teaches children about sensitive topics such as drugs and alcohol, sex abuse, HIV, and AIDS. The program costs $500,000 a year, but this year the district won’t be receiving a $100,000 state grant to fund it.
Another public hearing will be held on Wednesday night at the district offices. The board will vote to adopt the budget next Wednesday.