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CNY SBA to hold forum on schools’ fiscal crisis Feb. 4, 5

Advocates for state public education financing reform demonstrate last summer. In order to encourage more people to become educated on the topic and to advocate for similar reforms, the Central New York School Boards Association, in conjunction with several area BOCES, will hold two forums on the topic next week.

Advocates for state public education financing reform demonstrate last summer. In order to encourage more people to become educated on the topic and to advocate for similar reforms, the Central New York School Boards Association, in conjunction with several area BOCES, will hold two forums on the topic next week.

— Several local schools were classified as being in “susceptible” or “moderate” fiscal distress, including the Cazenovia (31.7 percent), North Syracuse (35.0 percent) and Skaneateles (50.0) districts.

School districts found to be in fiscal stress share a number of common characteristics. Most are operating with low fund balance, operating deficits and limited cash on hand. These districts were also found to have a much higher likelihood of using short-term borrowing to bridge gaps in cash flow. They also tended to experience declining property values, high poverty rates and low school budget support.

And what has led to that fiscal distress? According to the CNY SBA, much of that burden can be placed on the inequitable aid policies laid out by the state. That’s why they’re helping to host the forums next week: to raise awareness about the policies and to advocate for their repeal, particularly that of the harmful gap elimination adjustment.

“What we’re hoping to do with these forums is to point out the key issues and our key asks of the state legislature this year,” Borgognoni said. “Obviously, public education financing is a very complicated process. We’re trying to pick out two key issues and convey them in a very easy-to-understand manner that will arm folks to be able to interact with their legislators. At all the forums, we’re going to focus on the Gap Elimination Adjustment and its complete repeal this year.”

The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) was instituted by the Cuomo administration in the 2009-10 school year to help the state fill its revenue shortfall. Essentially, the state allocates a certain amount of aid to schools each year, then takes away a portion of that aid through the GEA. If the amount of state aid allocated to schools exceeds the projected growth in the state’s personal income, regardless of the need projected by schools, the GEA is increased to contain overall growth within legislated limits. If state aid increases are less than that limit or of legislators choose to exceed the state aid cap, the GEA can be decreased. However, the GEA generally remains at the same levels year to year.

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