Budget has more for strapped schools

County districts to receive $60M in state support

KINDERHOOK–School districts in the county will see increases in state aid in the upcoming school year. The amounts vary from district to district, with the average increase at 7%. Altogether the six districts in the county will receive over $60 million in state aid in the school year that begins in July.

The amount of aid is up not only over what the districts are receiving this year, it’s also an increase over the governor’s executive budget proposal released in January. (A chart of the increases for each district appears on Page 10 of the print edition.)

Ichabod Crane Superintendent George Zini announced at the board meeting on Tuesday night, April 1, that his district will receive a $370,000 increase in aid, some of which will be used to close the $180,000 gap the district had expected and reduce the tax levy increase to 2%.
“Those are the only two that we are defiantly doing, the rest, we’ll see,” he said of the using the increase.

District Business Manager Michael Brennan said that he and Mr. Zini would meet this week to discuss the increase. Mr. Zini said at this week’s meeting that the administrators have a list of items that could be included in the budget now that the district has more funds.
The district will hold a budget meeting next Tuesday, April 8 at 7 p.m., for the board to approve the $35.4-million budget for the 2014-15 school year.

A press release from Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D–106th) said all the school systems in her Assembly district will receive increases. Among them is Taconic Hills, which will see the largest percentage aid increase at 14%, nearly $1.5 million more than the amount for the current year. Hudson, which is also in her district, will see an additional $1.1 million, the second largest increase in the county. Germantown will receive an additional $232,000.

In January, Governor Cuomo released preliminary school aid numbers that showed increases in all districts. At that point, Taconic Hills only had a .08% increase in aid. But in negotiations over the last few weeks, both houses of the legislature pushed for the increases in spending on education that were part of the final budget agreement.

The Assembly and Senate passed the budget over the weekend and it was signed into law by the governor on Monday, March 31.
Though the districts have seen the increases, several have mentioned the overall loss in aid because of the Gap Elimination Adjustment or GEA. The GEA is a complicated formula that goes back to 2010 and takes away funding on the GEA line of proposed state aid budgets for districts. Ichabod Crane has lost over $1.4 million on the Assembly budget GEA line for the 2014-15. (For more on GEA see story on Hudson budget plans, page 9 of the print edition.)

According to Assemblymember Barrett, included in this funding is $602 million in GEA restoration for all state schools, which is $278 more than the governor’s proposal had contained. Ms. Barrett noted in a press release that this is only one step along the way and she will continue fighting to fully restore this aid. “In addition to GEA restoration, the budget includes a $250 million increase in Foundation Aid, which targets high needs and rural districts and provides much-needed relief to school districts that face costs largely beyond their control,” the press release states.

Boards throughout the county will be adjusting and proposing their budgets in this month to finalize the ballots for the May 20 vote.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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