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Cuomo’s budget proposal brings ups, downs for CNY

— “The way things are going, yes, we’re seeing a 3.1 percent increase, all told, but we’re losing our sales tax money, we’re losing all of our federal money and our revenue is just disappearing,” said Wayne Bleau, assistant superintendent for management in the North Syracuse Central School District. “From this year to next year, we’re losing $5.8 million in revenue.”

The story’s no better in Liverpool, where Superintendent Dr. Richard Johns said the state aid package has gone down 4.1 percent, or $1.79 million.

“The bottom line is our costs keep going up, state mandates keep going up and revenues keep going down,” Johns said. “We have to look at taking things away from the kids, and that bothers me a whole bunch.”

The numbers recently put out by the state are misleading, as well, because they only reflect building aid, not transportation or BOCES aid, which actually went down in the 2012-13 proposal. In addition, many school finance experts are critical of Cuomo’s competitive grants program, which is meant to funnel money into high-needs, low-wealth districts.

“We are deeply concerned about the governor’s plan to direct nearly one-third of the $805 in new funds to a competitive grants program,” said Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium in a statement. “This is an unproven strategy. The $250 million dedicated to this effort would have a more direct benefit on the needs of students if it remained in direct aid to school districts that desperately need the funds.”

Both Liverpool and North Syracuse will present their initial budgets to their school boards on Feb. 27. The budgets will be tweaked by the boards and go to a vote in May.

The ugly

The hardest pill for districts to swallow, however, had little to do with budget cuts.

During his budget presentation, Cuomo demanded that the New York State Education Department establish a workable teacher evaluation system and enact it as soon as possible, noting that it was the promise of that system that netted New York $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds.

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