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David W. Ziskin

Superintendent of Schools

25 High Street

Fort Plain, NY 13339

518.993.4000

 

 
 

District

Aid Increases, GEA Remains in Governor’s Budget Proposal


The state investment in schools would increase by $807 million or 3.8 percent next year if enacted as outlined in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget. The increase includes funding that the governor has earmarked for the launch of several new education initiatives.

Locally, the Fort Plain Central School District would see a 4.31 increase in state aid under his proposal.

One of the new initiatives highlighted by the governor is the phase-in of universal, full-day pre-kindergarten statewide. High-quality early education is one of the best investments to be made in education, but many schools do not have the space, staffing or equipment for such a program, acknowledged the governor. He proposed spending $1.5 billion over five years to phase in the program.

“The state will move as fast as districts move,” he said. “It becomes a government chore to develop capacity.”

Gov. Cuomo also proposed a $2 billion bond for a Smart Schools initiative to go before voters in November. If approved, the bond would give schools money for infrastructure improvements related to high-speed broadband access and classroom technology (e.g., smartboards, tablets). Schools could also use the funds to construct new pre-kindergarten classrooms, if the funds allow or if they prefer. The state would distribute the funds to schools based on the existing state aid formula.

Other new education initiatives in his proposal include:

  • Investing $720 million over a five-year period in afterschool programs. Districts would have to submit plans to the State Education Department for approval.

  • An $8 million SUNY/CUNY full-scholarship program for the top 10 percent of high school graduates. Eligible graduates must pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math and work in New York State for five years following graduation from college.

  •  A $20 million Teacher Excellence Fund that would allow teachers rated as “highly effective” to be eligible to receive rewards of up to $20,000 annually.

  • Officially eliminating standardized tests for students in grades K-2. Currently there are no state assessments in those grades.

Remaining in his proposal is the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which was introduced in 2010 as a way for the state government to close its budget deficit. It did so by spreading the funding shortfall around to all school districts through a GEA reduction to the overall Foundation Aid due to schools. Despite New York’s anticipated surplus, the governor’s proposal calls for only a partial restoration ($323 million) of funds withheld from districts through the GEA.

That amounts to only $185,922 returned to Fort Plain. The district has lost $3,205,314 from the 2010-11 school year through the 2013-14 school year due to the GEA, and the GEA loss for the district in the Gov.’s proposed budget is $272,022

“Our advocacy efforts continue to be about eliminating the GEA completely,” said Fort Plain Superintendent Douglas Burton. “We are a rural, high needs district, and as I’ve said this year, poorer school districts have borne the brunt of Gap Elimination Adjustment reductions to state aid.”

The Executive Budget also proposes a two-year property tax freeze for homeowners residing in school districts that meet certain conditions. During the first year of the freeze, a district would have to pass a budget with a levy that stays within its property tax levy cap. During the second year, in addition to again staying within its cap, a district would have to agree to and implement a state-approved plan for shared services and consolidation.

Last year, 96 percent of school districts, including Fort Plain were able to stay within their property tax levy caps largely through reductions to programs, services and staff.

Visit http://www.budget.ny.gov/ for more details on the governor’s budget.

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