State budget brings aid hikes for local districts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Lyndonville Central School campus is pictured last week by the waterfalls near Route 63.

The numbers are in and they look good for local school districts. The state budget would give the five local school districts about $3 million more in operating aid, a 4.3 percent increase.

State-wide, the governor and legislative leaders agreed to 6.1 percent increase or $1.4 billion more to $23.5 billion in education aid.

The five local districts would get a combined $71,673,201 in operating aid, a $2,942,582 increase.

School leaders throughout the state have been waiting the past 10 weeks for school aid numbers. The governor typically includes those in the January budget proposal. State legislative leaders have historically bumped up the numbers from the governor.

Local school districts were penciling in 0 percent increases as part of their budget preparations. Local school budgets will be finalized in April, with the plans going before voters on May 19.

The districts in Orleans County all will see boosts in aid.

Here is a breakdown of the state aid for local school districts:

District 2014-15 2015-16 Increase
Albion $21,683,486 $22,466,950 $783,466 (3.6 %)
Holley $12,222,313 $12,791,971 $569,658 (4.7 %)
Kendall $8,729,604 $9,474,209 $744,605 (8.5 %)
Lyndonville $6,558,453 $6,895,703 $337,220 (5.1 %)
Medina $19,536,733 $20,044,368 $507,635 (2.6 %)
Orleans County $68,730,619 $71,673,201 $2,942,582 (4.3 %)

Source: NYS Division of the Budget

Medina would see about a half-million dollar increase in operating aid.

“We are pleased with the projection of state aid as we used very conservative estimates trying to plan for unknown revenue streams,” said Jeff Evoy, superintendent of Medina Central School.

The $337,220 increase for Lyndonville is good news, said Jason Smith, district superintendent.

“The district is pleased to see the state reduce the Gap Elimination Adjustment, and we are also pleased with our state aid increase,” Smith said. “We will work with our Board of Education to utilize this increase to reduce our reliance on reserves and explore ways to enhance our academic programs.”

An issue to be resolved in Albany is Cuomo’s controversial push to link the aid to revamped teacher evaluations. The governor wants 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be tied to student performance on standardized tests. Right now, 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is reflected in those test scores.

“I have some serious concerns with the proposed changes to the teacher evaluation system, specifically forcing districts to negotiate an agreement in order to receive additional state aid increases,” Smith said. “This has been tried before, and was not successful.”

Robert Reidy Jr., executive director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents and Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, issued a joint statement about the new teacher evaluation law within the New York State Budget.

“The well-known definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” the two said. “Since 2010, legislation to change the teacher evaluation system in New York has been passed three times. The proposals currently under consideration as a part of state budget negotiation will be the fourth attempt in five years.”

Reidy and Kremer said the governor forced new teacher evaluation protocol during the budget deadline in 2012, and that led to deficiencies in the evaluation system the governor now opposes.

Reidy and Kremer also are critical of push to have independent evaluators, instead of school administrators, do the reviews for teachers.

“Introducing an unaffiliated ‘independent’ evaluator to this practice would undermine the one successful piece of the current evaluation law,” Reidy and Kremer said. “Together these proposals represent yet another costly unfunded mandate on local school districts, while jeopardizing their ability to access needed state aid.”