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City of Syracuse faces tough school budget decisions


School spending is the focus of tonight's budget hearing in the City of Syracuse. One portion of the district proposal that's expected to sail through is the closing of a school.

Last year, parents at Elmwood Elementary School in Syracuse put up a fight when the district suggested closing the school. Twiggy Billue, president of the Parent Teacher Organization, says that learning just how poorly kids were doing swayed her opinion when the topic of closing the school popped up again.

"Last year they told us that the needed it for swing space," Billue said.

She thinks the outcome would have been much different if they were informed that 91% of the students were not passing.

"That's ridiculous, no one would accept that. So it's time we do something to stop this vicious cycle of failure," Billue said.

Closing Elmwood will save the district $3  million but that still leaves a $24 million budget gap. The district plans on making ends meet by borrowing on future state aid.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who ultimately signs off on the spending, is worried about the future.

"It is actually a fancy accounting mechanism. What troubles me about the school district is the same thing that troubles me about the city. They are one shots, but we have to have really sustainable reform in order to have a meaningful balanced budget and to move forward," Miner said.

There will be a budget hearing on the entire city budget later this week. Common councilors will vote on it next Monday.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.