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Schools get much-needed aid increase

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 July 2013 at 12:00 am

Five Orleans districts to receive $3.2 million more

Albion Central School

Photo by Tom Rivers – Albion Central School officials say they will be able to preserve their programs at the middle school (pictured) and other schools in the 2013-14 budget.

 

District 2012-13 2013-14 Increase
Albion $20,389,686 $21,203,440 $813,754 (4.0 %)
Holley $10,879,581 $11,621,917 $742,336 (6.8 %)
Kendall $8,273,703 $8,826,811 $553,108 (6.7 %)
Lyndonville $6,066,589 $6,357,344 $290,755 (4.8 %)
Medina $18,008,806 $18,812,657 $803,851 (4.5 %)
Orleans County $63,618,365 $66,822,169 $3,203,804 (5.0 %)

Source: NYS Division of the Budget

State aid increases are making life a little easier for school leaders this budget go-round.

The five districts in Orleans County will receive between 4 and nearly 7 percent more in state funds next school year, according to the state budget approved last week. That follows two years of meager increases. The districts were all cut significantly when David Paterson was governor. The state sliced education spending by nearly $3 billion state-wide during Paterson’s tenure.

“With the latest aid increases we are now back to the funding levels of 2009,” said Clark Godshall, superintendent of the Orleans-Niagara BOCES.

The 13 districts in the Orleans-Niagara BOCES cut 700 positions during the school funding crisis over the past five years, Godshall said. Some of those reductions were made due to shrinking enrollments. But many teachers, administrators and staff lost their jobs because districts were contending with rising costs and tepid revenue growth. The state also imposed a tax cap of about 2 percent on local governments.

“With the tax cap you were forced to reduce,” Godshall said.

State-wide education funding is up nearly $1 billion for about 700 school districts. The five districts in Orleans County collectively will receive $3.2 million more in operating aid, or a 5.0 percent increase to $66.8 million.

“We will be able to preserve all of our programs,” said Shawn Liddle, Albion Central School assistant superintendent for business. “We’re always grateful for the aid we receive from New York State.”

State and federal governments pay for about 80 percent of the district’s $33 million annual budget. The state budget gives Albion about $800,000 more in operating aid for 2013-14.

Although programs will be maintained, Liddle said the Finance Committee is eyeing some staff cuts to mirror a drop in student enrollment. The committee will make its budget recommendation to the Board of Education during Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting.

The district went the past six years without raising taxes. Albion cut staff and tapped reserve funds to stave off a tax increase during that time. But Liddle said the committee is looking at a 1.5 percent tax increase for 2013-14, which will be under the 2 percent cap.

Lyndonville also expects to preserve all of its programming and stay under the tax cap, said Board of Education President Ed Urbanik.

Rather than dig deeper into its reserve funds, the district can preserve those funds due to the increase in state aid. That gives Lyndonville a cushion with the uncertainties with health care costs, Urbanik said.

Rural schools have been lobbying the state to boost funding the past several years. Rural districts say they were disproportionately hit hard with the state funding cuts under Paterson.

Educate NY Now, an advocacy group of school stakeholders throughout NY, praised the new state budget, particularly the sizable increases for some districts. But Billy Easton, executive director for the Alliance for Quality Education, said the state needs to do more to help school districts, especially those in rural areas.

“There remain urgent educational needs that must be addressed, such as closing the now widening gulf in educational opportunities between wealthy and poor schools,” he said in a statement. “Legislators are getting the message loud and clear that our schools are in crisis. This budget will slow the rate of classroom cuts, not stop it.”