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Governor’s Budget Proposal Deals Heavy Blow to County Schools

Oswego County’s schools will lose more than 15 million dollars in state aid to education under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

The devastating news showed up late Tuesday in data released by the state after Cuomo delivered an address in which he said that schools that have low wealth and depend heavily on state aid would be treated better than schools that have less need for state aid.

Instead, the data shows that, eliminating aid for operating school buildings, the county’s schools would absorb cuts of between 3.76% and 12.75%, far exceeding the statewide average.

“So much for the rhetoric,” said Fulton school district financial administrator Kathy Nichols, who listened to the Governor’s budget speech and hoped that the numbers would match his words.

Nichols’ review of the aid numbers found that the district would suffer a cut of nearly $1.5 million dollars in aid.

The loss of aid will only make filling the district’s budget deficit harder.  Nichols said that the district needs $1.6 million more just to keep everything that’s in the 2011-2012 budget.

The aid numbers now make that gap more than $3 million – that’s about 5% of the current budget of about $60 million.

The district was also hoping to be able to carry a $1.7 million dollar surplus in its designated fund balance forward for one more year, to be able to weather the difficult year that is all but certain for the 2012-2013 budget year.

Instead, Cuomo said in his address that district should use their reserves to get through this year’s hard times.

“That’s just another one-shot,” scoffed Board of Education President Robbin Griffin, using the state’s term for one-time ways to raise revenues, such as last year’s fiasco over forcing everyone to buy a new license plate.

As the district’s budget committee met Tuesday night to continue reviewing district spending, the talk turned to the aid proposal and its effects on the school.

“It’s a frightening number,” said Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch.

“The reality is there’s going to be less money, no matter what,” said Griffin. “Things are not going to look the same next year.”

In Oswego, Peter Colucci, Assistant Superintendent for Business, said, “”The governor has presented his budget proposal and it provides us something to work off of as we continue to prepare our district’s budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. We understand that the New York State Assembly and Senate have to pass the budget and that the governor has to sign off on it in order to move forward with something concrete. However, it is nice to have something official to help us move forward, but there is still a long way to go in both Albany and Oswego.”

3 Comments

  1. This means that teachers unions and the overpaid/underworked school administrators like the ones quoted in this article need to bite the bullet with their personal salaries. They need to be given a zero percent salary increase, along with being forced to contribute more to their health insurance and retirement accounts. The teachers unions created this situation and should have to bear the consequences.

  2. And I quote….”Cuomo delivered an address in which he said that schools that have low wealth and depend heavily on state aid would be treated better than schools that have less need for state aid.”

    Oh, OK. Well, schools that have less of a need for state aid typically are funded by a dwindling number of heavily over-burdened hard-working taxpayers. And, those types of districts generally will not make the tough choices of budget cuts once they’ve grown accustomed to their way of having things…and Oswego City is no exception. Expect massive local tax increases people and when they hit call Cuomo and tell him the taxpayer finally will accept some state aid….so if YOU get any!

  3. Worth noting here:

    1. Poorer school districts won a huge court case several years ago that demanded equity in setting state aid levels. The court decision should have paved the way for low-wealth districts (like Hannibal and several others in the county) to have received a fairer share of state aid. This is what Cuomo was referring to in the mention in our story. But the formula that determines aid has not changed and poorer schools continue to receive lower amounts of aid per pupil when compared to high wealth districts.

    2. Not sure where Oswego falls on the high-need/low-need scale, but the district receives around 25-30% of its revenues from state aid. There are wealthy districts on Long Island that receive less than 10% of their revenues from state aid (and offer an amazing array of courses to students, including foreign language courses to kindergarteners), while the rural districts of this county get half to 3/4ths of their revenue from state aid. Oswego, after factoring out building aid, takes the largest hit of any county school, with a drop in state aid of more than 10 percent, or $2 million dollars.

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