continued “The governor did what he said he was going to do. Governor Cuomo said he was going to give an increase of $805 million to public education. Unfortunately, $250 million of that money is in competitive grants,” Keegan said. “We don’t know the timing, criteria and process of getting those grants.”
When information about grants becomes available, he said the district would be going after them.
Cuomo’s budget provides funds for excess public aid, or special education costs, and BOCES aid for districts utilizing BOCES services.
According to Keegan, if the cost of special education services go over $28,900 per student, the state helps with the excess.
Keegan said the district is on track to get approximately $1.8 million though the amount projected was $2 million. The numbers can be difficult to predict as the number of children receiving special education services vary due to residents moving in and out of the district, he said.
However, BOCES aid is $440,000 less than what was projected.
According to Keegan, another form of aid — foundation aid — has not changed in a number of years, but the government has changed the gap elimination number, which inevitably takes aid away from districts. This year a projected $10 million will be taken from the district in gap elimination aid.
“The state is trying to cut back on state aid to schools. There’s so much debate about how aid should be distributed,” Keegan said.
Despite the state attempting to cut back, Keegan said the district should still see an increase in aid to support programs to the tune of 3.1 percent more than last year, or $1.4 million.
With North Syracuse’s preliminary budget currently at $143 million — a budget-to-budget increase of $6.7 million — the finance team is concerned with how much the district would have to increase the tax levy. Keegan suggested not using as much of the fund balance to offset next year’s budget, and even with a 3.1 percent state aid increase, a reduction in revenue and increase in costs leaves the district with a $9 million shortfall.
A tax levy limit increase of 4.5 percent, however, would leave the district with approximately $5.8 million to cut from the budget.
“We’re talking about $9.1 million and if we get the aid they say we’re supposed to get, we’re still looking for $5.8 million [to cut],” board president Pat Carbone said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
The goal is to give the best program the district can with the least impact on the children.
“The least dependent we are on state aid, the better off we are,” Carbone said.