The good, the bad and the ugly

Cuomo’s budget proposal brings ups, downs for CNY

— The story’s no better in Baldwinsville, where Superintendent Jeanne Dangle said the district faces a $4.3 million gap in the budget.

“The amount of money added doesn’t even get us where we were a few years ago,” she said. In fact, the $4.3 million gap combined with enrollment decreases has resulted in the district seriously considering closing one of its elementary schools, which could save $1.2 million.

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 million 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.”

The Baldwinsville Board of Education will have a tentative budget ready in April at which point it will be tweaked and then will go to vote in May. In the meantime, serious discussions are being held regarding closing either Van Buren or Elden elementary schools, the two oldest buildings of the five elementary schools in the district. Having anticipated a cut in aid, a 60-member Facilities Feasibility Study Committee was formed last fall to look at building usage as well as enrollment trends. The district has seen a reduction of more than 400 students in its elementary schools since the 1995-96 school year (2,788 in 95-96; 2,383 2011-12). That committee presented its findings to the board Monday, Jan. 23. While there are objections, Dangle said people have contacted her and understand the difficult choices the district faces.

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