Schools react to cuts in Cuomo's budget proposal

Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal introduced Feb. 1 comes as no surprise to officials within the Fayetteville-Manlius and East Syracuse Minoa school districts.

"Since last July, the [F-M] district has been working on a plan to reduce the budget in anticipation of less state and federal aid," said Superintendent Corliss Kaiser. "Thus far, $2.6 million in reductions have been identified."

If Cuomo's plan goes through, it will cut state education aid by $1.5 billion to $19.4 billion, a 7.3 percent drop. Locally, ESM is projected to take an 18 percent cut in state aid; the F-M School District is scheduled to lose $3.1 million.

Kaiser said the district is considering reductions and efficiencies in all areas as well as a tax levy, which residents will be responsible. She emphasized; however, that "the burden of this proposal will not be placed solely on the backs of our students or our taxpayers."

Outside of state, federal and local funding, there are limited sources of revenue for school districts. Grants are available, but often schools with average resources are not considered for this source of funding. Additionally, grant funding is often only considered for specific projects, not total program funding.

"Private funding is accepted through our F-M Foundation or through private donations to the district," Kaiser said. "However, the donations are generally not large enough to close budget gaps."

In addition to major cuts in state aid, Gov. Cuomo has proposed a 2 percent cap on property taxes. Designed to protect property owners, the cap prevents an increase in any district's tax levy (amount raised through property taxes) above 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

"We have little choice in New York state other than to reduce spending," Kaiser said. "The governor and legislature should carefully consider rescinding expensive unfunded mandates to help schools weather the cuts."

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