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Syracuse City School District presents proposed budget

Printed pages fanned out of a school budget proposal.
Ashley Kang
The Syracuse City School District's proposed budget for the 2023-2024 school year was presented to school board members, Feb. 15, 2023.

Syracuse’s school district is poised to get a funding boost from the state. The district's top financial officer said the school system is set to receive a good chunk from the governor's proposed budget.

In a meeting Wednesday evening, the district's chief financial officer Michael Puntschenko said Syracuse could see a large slice from the state.

“Syracuse’s increase is higher than the state average of 9.9%. And Syracuse is also going to receive the largest increase in foundation aid of the Big Five, excluding New York City, and we're very close to that," Puntschenko told board members during the special meeting. "So the governor has been very kind to Syracuse in this budget proposal.”

Puntschenko said he expects some components of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to be challenged, including reporting requirements for pre-K enrollment, budget transparency measures and eligibility limitations for high-impact tutoring.

Puntschenko said the tutoring is only for third- through eighth-grade students who are at risk of falling below state standards in reading and math.

That was concerning to the board's vice president Katie Sojewicz. She said the plan may seem good on paper but she worried it’ll help more on state test scores than actual student comprehension.

At the meeting, Sojewicz urged Puntschenko to share this concern with state lawmakers during an upcoming advocacy day involving leaders of the largest school districts in the state, known as the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, which includes Syracuse.

“The thing that jumped out at me that you're going to be talking about next week at the Big 5 lobby day is going to be very, I think, challenging to get the elected officials to understand how detrimental that tutoring is going to be," Sojewicz said.

The Big 5 includes city school districts of Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers, Albany, Mount Vernon and Utica.

Puntschenko said high-impact tutoring is a concern across all districts and something they plan to further discuss with the governor’s office.

The district also proposed in its budget plan to hire 22 new teachers and add 87 new positions, including 50 teaching assistants.

Next month, community members can weigh in on the district's budget proposal during public hearings on March 22 and March 27.