Some school aid reinstated in state budget

By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL

OBSERVER Staff Writer

Schools locally and around New York state will be receiving more aid from the state following the Senate’s version of the budget which recently passed. The budget passed includes more than $386 million in funding over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget of $550 million in funding.

“The Senate fought hard to increase school aid to invest in our children and give relief to the taxpayers,” Sen. Catharine Young said in a statement.

According to Young’s office, most of the aid that is included in the increased budget is restoration of the gap elimination adjustment. The GEA is legislation first introduced by former Gov. David Patterson in 2010 to help close the state’s deficit. This legislation reduces to state aid to districts. The amount is found by dividing a portion of the deficit by all districts then removing that amount from the funding.

“Most of the school aid increase over the Governor’s plan is a nearly $200 million additional of the gap elimination adjustment, which was championed by the Senate and the top priority identified by my school boards, superintendents and teachers. The Senate pushed very hard to totally eliminate the GEA, but our proposal was rejected by the Governor and Assembly Speaker,” Young said.

Although the state aid has increased for many local districts, the increase is more a restoration of funding. Gowanda Superintendent Charles Rinaldi called the funding is “welcome dollars.”

“We needed those extra dollars to retain programs to keep the tax levy from exceeding a level where the public could support it, so it’s welcome dollars,” he said. “We’re obviously needing it to balance our budget.”

The Gowanda district will see an increase of about $160,000 in aid between the increase of the foundation aid and the GEA. Fredonia Central School is also seeing an increase of over $300,000, according to Superintendent Paul DiFonzo.

“There’s been an additional $371,000 of money put back into the state aid for Fredonia which is helpful,” he said.

While the extra funding is there, DiFonzo said the district is still about $900,000 short of reaching a cap of 3.36 percent. He said the district is looking at different options to gain revenue by renting out facilities and even looking at possible staffing reductions. He said the extra aid is helpful but does not eliminate the GEA.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “(The extra aid) is helpful and we are thankful to the legislature for getting a budget approved on time.”

Silver Creek Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich, like the rest of the superintendents, was very thankful for extra funding. The district’s aid increased from 1.27 percent to 4.09 percent as a result of the senate’s budget. Ljiljanich said the district “didn’t know what to expect” for an amount of aid and he said there has not been any word on how much of the increase is from one-time fiscal stabilization funds.

“We are very appreciative to Senator Cathy Young, who worked hard to increase the state aid run this year,” he said.

Throughout the state, the school aid increased by about $1 billion. Young said schools in the 57th Senate district are receiving over $19 million more than last year’s amounts.

“Overall, it is a very positive state budget for education,” Young said.

Assistant News Editor Nicole Gugino contributed to this article. Comments may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.