Governor's budget would cut $2 million in S-G state aid

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his spending proposals for the state’s 2011-12 fiscal year on February 1.

The plan, which must still be accepted by the state Legislature, includes a $2.02 million (11.6 percent) state aid reduction to Scotia-Glenville.

The district will be able to balance part of the state aid loss with the $804,000 federal education jobs bill funding that was approved by Congress in August. That is a one-time source of revenue.

According to information from the state, Scotia-Glenville received $17.36 million in state aid this year and can expect $15.34 million next year.

Technically, state aid (also known as Foundation Aid) remains frozen at current levels and other aids, such as for building reimbursement, transportation and BOCES, were allowed as in the past. Those latter aids are reimbursements on money already spent by the school district.

However, the state then assesses a “GAP elimination adjustment,” which is subtracted from the district’s total aid. For the current year, the GAP adjustment was $2.83 million; for the 2011-12 school year, Cuomo has projected S-G’s GAP adjustment to be $3.7 million.

In all, Cuomo a proposed a $1.5 billion, or 7.3 percent reduction in total state education expenditures to cope with New York’s own serious fiscal problems. That reduction is in actual, year-to-year dollars – not through a slower-than-planned rate of increase.

The Governor’s budget proposal contained a series of other elements that would impact school districts across the state, from limiting reimbursements for special education summer school to the prospect of some relief from mandated expenses that drive up costs.

Looking ahead to Scotia-Glenville’s 2011-12 budget

If the state aid gap were filled by increasing taxes, with no spending reductions, it would lead to an 8 percent tax rate increase at Scotia-Glenville.

Superintendent Susan Swartz, who will present a proposed 2011-12 budget on February 28, has said previously that reductions in spending will be needed next year. She will present the budget to the Board of Education at 7 p.m. on February 28 at the middle school. The Board of Education will review it at 7 p.m. on Mondays, March 7, 14, 21 and 28 at the middle school.

The community considers the budget during voting from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, at the high school.
Scotia-Glenville’s Board of Education, over the past several years, has kept a tight lid on tax rates and spending, essentially imposing its own tax cap.

Since the 2006-07 budget, the Scotia-Glenville school tax rate has risen from $19.21 per $1,000 assessed value that year to the current $20.01 per $1,000 assessed value.

That is a 4.2% increase over five years. Many area school districts have increased their tax rates that much in a single year.

For the typical Scotia-Glenville homeowner with a $160,000 assessment, that means a $128 increase in school taxes since 2006 – $25.60 more per year on average.

During the past five years, the state’s School TAx Reduction (STAR) program reimbursement has also been reduced and adjusted, in an effort to cut state costs. That has led to higher net local tax bills.

Scotia-Glenville’s diligence has come as the state froze or reduced state aid to schools while health care and pension costs for its nearly 500 employees have risen steadily.

Scotia-Glenville’s overall spending since 2006 has increased from $42.01 million to the current $47.33 million. That is an increase of 12.7 percent over five years - 2.5 percent on average per year.

Over the past two years especially, Scotia-Glenville leaders have tightened spending in the face of rising costs and reduced state aid.

In the 2009-10 school budget, there was no increase in state aid. At Scotia-Glenville, $1.3 million in costs were trimmed, including the elimination of 5.2 full-time positions.

In the current 2010-11 budget, state aid was cut by $2.3 million. The budget cut spending by $2 million, including 19.7 full-time positions.

Part of the state aid loss will also be offset by a large number of retirements that the Board of Education has accepted. So far, the board has accepted 15 teacher retirements and three administrative retirements. There is usually a savings after a retirement because the person who retires is paid more than his or her replacement will be paid.

Mandate relief
Cuomo has appointed a Mandate Relief team that is set to report back by March 1. That team will conducting a rigorous and comprehensive review of mandates imposed on school districts and other local taxing districts in order to look for the best and most cost-effective ways to deliver mandated programs and services and also identify those that are ineffective, unnecessary, outdated and duplicative.

School officials statewide are hopeful that there will be mandate relief from the state’s myriad of requirements on schools.

The state Senate has also approved a 2 percent cap on school tax levies that is set to become effective with the 2012-13 school year. The cap, which would have to be approved by the state Assembly, has a limited exception for voter-approved capital expenditures.

Educational organizations statewide have said that without mandate relief and other measures at the state level to help control costs, school districts would be unable to meet their basic expenses without deep cuts to educational programs under a property tax cap.

The state budget proposal continues the STAR property tax relief program. It introduces a mechanism to prevent benefit increases when property values decline, and also limits the growth in exemption benefits to two percent annually.

The state budget is scheduled to be passed by the state Legislature by April 1, though disagreements between the legislative and executive branches over the budget usually means that state constitutional deadline is missed.


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