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Councilor proposes pay cap for superintendent

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Councilor proposes pay cap for superintendent
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How much should Syracuse's school superintendent be allowed to make? And who should have the final say about that salary level? YNN's Bill Carey says the debate has been touched off by a proposal from a Syracuse common councilor.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- On an agenda listing 38 items of business, it was there at number 32. A proposal from the republican minority leader on the common council. Ryan McMahon says it's simply reinforces a plan first set forth by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The resolution asking the city school board to put a cap on salary levels for the city school superintendent.

"I think it's important that we take a look at what reasonable compensation is. I don't think anyone can argue that a superintendent in New York State should make more than Governor Cuomo," McMahon said.

There is democratic support for McMahon's plan, which is also designed to send a message that pay levels for other workers in the district need to be restrained. But in the city school district, there are cries of "foul." School leaders say the timing could not be worse, coming just as the district is negotiating for the hiring of a new superintendent.

"And we would hope that this would not have a serious, negative effect on that negotiation process and cause candidates to turn the other way. Because they're being recruited in other places as well. Syracuse is not the only place that they're looking to come to," said Syracuse school board member Laurie Menkin.

The debate over capping a superintendent's pay level goes to the deeper question that's caused friction between the school district and the city for some time. The question over just who's in charge of the school district.

"We are not a department of the city. We are a separate entity and our responsibility, primary responsibility, in addition to hiring a superintendent is to set a financial plan, a spending plan or a budget," Menkin.

"They approve a budget, but then it comes to the common council to approve. We don't have line item veto, but we have approval over the overall dollar figure that goes to the school district," McMahon said.

The council may settle the issue of a call for a pay cap next Monday. The debate over control of the schools won't be resolved any time soon.

The ongoing struggle between city government and its school system has led Mayor Stephanie Miner to consider a system where the mayor would have control over the district. She hasn't said whether she's ready to push for that change, which would require approval from the state legislature.

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