Feb 15, 2011 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
Nine million dollars.
That is the shortfall the Baldwinsville Central School District is facing for the 2011-12 budget.
This estimate comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York State budget proposal, which seeks to cut $1.5 billion from school aid. Five million dollars would be cut from Baldwinsville’s aid.
According to Cuomo, readjusting top salaries, freezing teacher salaries, using reserves and leftover federal money would help school districts make up for the decreased state aid without the need for layoffs. His overall executive budget proposal aims to eliminate a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or borrowing.
“This budget is the first step toward building a new New York, as it both saves taxpayer dollars and reinvents our state government,” the governor said, adding New York is number one in spending on education and number 34 in results. He added that more funds do not mean better schools or better programs and changes must start with a look at the programs: do they work for the student.
School administrators do not believe that is fair portrayal of Upstate districts.
“As the federal and state governments demand that student performance increase, the funds that support these efforts are taken away,” said James Rodems, assistant superintendent for management services for the Baldwinsville Central School District. “I think that Baldwinsville, along with a lot of upstate New York districts, are being painted with a rather broad brush. Our students do quite well and while we can always do better, I do not believe that one simple solution exists for all school districts.”
Education is also one of the two largest drivers of state expenditures, the other being Medicaid. There is little argument that cutting spending in these areas makes fiscal sense. Baldwinsville Superintendent Jeanne Dangle just wants her district’s fair share.
“Schools in our area are not asking for the governor to put more money into education,” Dangle said. “We would like him to redistribute the money he is allowing for education. Right now, a lot more money goes to the wealthier downstate schools and their reduction in State Aid is very small compared to CNY school aid cuts.”
This inequality is also found in the $700 million in funding awarded to New York state through the Race to the Top program, in which Baldwinsville will see less than $100,000 spread over three years. “Most of these funds will go to New York City, other city school districts and SED in Albany,” Rodems said.
What can Baldwinsville residents expect?
The Baldwinsville School District’s $9 million shortfall includes $4 million in increased expenses and $5 million in state aid cuts, as well as a cut in sales tax distribution from Onondaga County, which goes from $1.2 million in prior years to $446,000 in 2011-12.
“These numbers will make for a challenging year for Baldwinsville,” Rodems said.
In addition, the 2 percent tax cap, which passed the New York State Senate and is now in the hands of the Assembly, would limit how much the district could raise the tax levy, which is the portion taxpayers provide through property taxes.
“For Baldwinsville, this means we would be able to raise just under $1 million through new taxes,” Rodems said. “The bulk of our budget gap will have to be made up of cuts in expenses and use of reserves.”
“Our methodology has been to cut some from everywhere so that no one program bears the brunt of any cuts,” he continued. “We will try to balance our approach but the community needs to know that how we deliver services to students will change. We are looking at everything – bus routes, maintenance, class sizes and staffing.”
What does this mean for the future of school districts?
“Districts will survive by tightening their belts, by doing things differently and using reserves. There are no more revenue sources other than state aid, some federal aid and property taxes [and] there is little hope there for increased revenue,” Rodems said. “We know that folks in our community are struggling financially. Personally, I would like to see a number of mandates be taken away. I do like the governor’s proposal that any new mandates be accompanied by the money to comply [above a certain dollar amount]. That is a start. The governor’s [budget] proposal will be a real challenge for us.”