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Budget talk

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his 2018 executive state budget proposal on Tuesday during a news conference at the Clark Auditorium in Albany.

Hans Pennink, Associated Press

School districts in this area would receive an average of a 1 percent increase in foundation aid under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal, which officials say will not keep pace with increases in salaries and health insurance costs.

Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled his budget plan, which would increase education aid by nearly $769 million to $26.4 billion. Of that increase, $338 million is in foundation aid, which is the basic grant awarded to school districts based upon enrollment and their property and income wealth.

Cuomo’s budget book says he is directing 70 percent of the increase in foundation aid to high needs districts. He is proposing an overall increase in school spending of 3 percent.

Queensbury’s foundation aid would increase 2.1 percent and Whitehall’s 2.2 percent. Several districts in this area would receive increases of 1.5 percent or greater, including Corinth, Fort Ann, Hudson Falls, Schuylerville and South Glens Falls.

Fort Edward would receive a 1.8 percent bump in aid to $13.34 million.

“Obviously we’re happy to see any increase in aid with the predicament the state is in,” said Superintendent of Schools Daniel Ward. “It’s going to fall short of what we would need to fully fund the programs that are here now.”

District officials have just begun work on their 2018-2019 budgets. Fort Edward is forecasting an 8 to 9 percent increase in health insurance costs. The district is also facing an ongoing revenue hit with the lowering of the assessments on the former Hudson River dewatering plant.

The assessed value for the two dewatering plant parcels has been lowered from a combined $72.6 million to nearly $37.5 million, resulting in a loss of about $950,000 in school district tax revenue.

“That’s the biggest piece of the puzzle,” Ward said.

The district last year received a $400,000 grant from Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, to offset the tax impact. School officials originally were going to save that money for this year’s budget. But residents lobbied the school board to use the money to offset the tax levy increase in the 2017-2018 budget. The district also tapped reserves.

“We reduced our tax levy by $625,000,” Ward said.

Warrensburg is set to get a 1.3 percent increase in aid, to $8.7 million. Superintendent John Goralski agreed the aid increase is very small and he believes the governor’s aid figures for BOCES services and transportation are overstated.

Goralski believes the total aid increase will be about $150,000 over the current year. The district has a large fund balance it can tap.

“Everyone told us it was going to be a tough budget year, and fortunately, Warrensburg is in a position where we can cover the shortfall, because an extra $150,000 isn’t going to cover our increase in health insurance, payroll and all those things,” he said.

The district is also facing an increase in retirement costs, according to Goralski. The percentage of salaries that districts will be required to contribute to the teachers retirement system is projected to increase for the first time in three years. It is expected to go from 9.8 percent to somewhere between 10.5 and 11 percent.

Despite the stock market gains, the retirement system is taking a cautious approach.

“There are more retirees. We’re going through a wave where a lot of people are retiring and people are living longer,” Goralski said.

The district is working on a five-year financial plan with consultant Rick Timbs.

“We’re hoping that will be done within the next month or two prior to having to adopt the budget, so we can use those projections,” Goralski said.

Goralski wants to hold the budget and tax levy flat. Over the last few years, the district has been trying to “right-size” its budget to reflect its drop in enrollment from 921 in 2006 to 729 in 2016.

The district’s 2017-18 budget decreased the tax levy 4 percent and lowered spending 1.5 percent.

Goralski acknowledges a heightened concern about keeping property taxes down because of the change in federal tax law that caps the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000.

“That’s going to have an impact on our taxpayers, so we’re really doing everything we can to control our tax levy as much as we can,” he said.

“Because of good financial planning, we are going to be able to weather the financial storm that the state is facing. I don’t know if other school districts will be as fortunate,” he added.

Some smaller and more affluent districts would only receive a 0.2 percent increase in the governor’s proposal. These include Bolton, Indian Lake, Johnsburg, Lake George, Long Lake, Minerva, Newcomb, North Warren, Saratoga Springs and Schroon Lake.

The state Board of Regents had requested a $1.6 billion increase in total education funding; and the Educational Conference Board, which is a coalition of teachers, administrators and parents, had recommended a $2 billion increase.

The New York State Council of School Superintendents said the governor’s proposal is below the $1.1 billion increase that the Division of Budget projected in its mid-year financial plan released two months ago.

“We hoped for more for schools from Governor Cuomo’s new state budget proposal, but we recognize the uncertainty created for state leaders by actions coming from Washington,” said Executive Director Charles Dedrick in a news release.

The board is pushing a four-point “financial sustainability agenda,” which includes updating the Foundation Aid formula; allowing the tax cap to be set at a fixed 2 percent; putting a moratorium on any unfunded mandates to allow districts to reduce costs; and allowing school districts to keep more than 4 percent of revenues in reserve.

The council is also concerned by the governor’s proposal to cap growth in expense-based funds, beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.

“Recent state aid increases have helped some districts begin to recover from damage they suffered during the Great Recession and its aftermath. But some of our poorest districts have come to depend heavily on those aids, especially BOCES Aid, which supports shared services among school districts,” Dedrick said in a news release.

Cuomo’s 2018 Foundation Aid proposal vs. 2017 amount

The following is the amount that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing in Foundation Aid, which is the basic grant that school districts receive. This does not include expense-based aids that districts receive as reimbursement for services used such as transportation, BOCES services or capital projects.

District 2017-18 aid 2018-19 aid % increase

Abraham Wing $1,070,511 $1,151,565 7.6

Argyle $5,407,775 $5,484,783 1.4

Bolton $466,326 $467,491 0.2

Cambridge $7,727,149 $7,830,406 1.3

Corinth $9,009,364 $9,181,076 1.9

Fort Ann $4,009,368 $4,078,857 1.7

Fort Edward $4,953,969 $5,043,994 1.8

Glens Falls $13,152,465 $13,340,592 1.4

Granville $12,237,775 $12,411,922 1.4

Greenwich $6,929,950 $7,071,501 2

Hadley-Luzerne $6,152,515 $6,205,028 0.9

Hartford $4,734,267 $4,800,651 1.4

Hudson Falls $19,077,021 $19,366,798 1.5

Indian Lake $457,037 $458,179 0.2

Johnsburg $2,507,457 $2,513,725 0.2

Lake George $1,482,591 $1,486,297 0.2

Long Lake $253,140 $253,772 0.2

Minerva $885,513 $887,726 0.2

Newcomb $310,155 $310,930 0.2

North Warren $2,543,056 $2,549,413 0.2

Putnam $185,446 $250,909 35.3

Queensbury $14847,030 $15,162,002 2.1

Salem $5,274,819 $5,343,922 1.3

Saratoga Springs $21,682,326 $21,736,531 0.2

Schroon Lake $700,971 $702,723 0.2

Schuylerville $11,047,599 $11,222,963 1.6

South Glens Falls $17,358,422 $17,627,765 1.6

Ticonderoga $5,374,930 $5,426,900 1

Warrensburg $8,597,240 $8,707,580 1.3

Whitehall $7,388,181 $7,554,360 2.2

MICHAEL GOOT

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Cuomo’s 2018 Foundation Aid proposal vs. 2017 amount

The following is the amount that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing in Foundation Aid, which is the basic grant that school districts receive. This does not include expense-based aids that districts receive as reimbursement for services used such as transportation, BOCES services or capital projects.

District 2017-18 aid 2018-19 aid % increase

Abraham Wing $1,070,511 $1,151,565 7.6

Argyle $5,407,775 $5,484,783 1.4

Bolton $466,326 $467,491 0.2

Cambridge $7,727,149 $7,830,406 1.3

Corinth $9,009,364 $9,181,076 1.9

Fort Ann $4,009,368 $4,078,857 1.7

Fort Edward $4,953,969 $5,043,994 1.8

Glens Falls $13,152,465 $13,340,592 1.4

Granville $12,237,775 $12,411,922 1.4

Greenwich $6,929,950 $7,071,501 2

Hadley-Luzerne $6,152,515 $6,205,028 0.9

Hartford $4,734,267 $4,800,651 1.4

Hudson Falls $19,077,021 $19,366,798 1.5

Indian Lake $457,037 $458,179 0.2

Johnsburg $2,507,457 $2,513,725 0.2

Lake George $1,482,591 $1,486,297 0.2

Long Lake $253,140 $253,772 0.2

Minerva $885,513 $887,726 0.2

Newcomb $310,155 $310,930 0.2

North Warren $2,543,056 $2,549,413 0.2

Putnam $185,446 $250,909 35.3

Queensbury $14847,030 $15,162,002 2.1

Salem $5,274,819 $5,343,922 1.3

Saratoga Springs $21,682,326 $21,736,531 0.2

Schroon Lake $700,971 $702,723 0.2

Schuylerville $11,047,599 $11,222,963 1.6

South Glens Falls $17,358,422 $17,627,765 1.6

Ticonderoga $5,374,930 $5,426,900 1

Warrensburg $8,597,240 $8,707,580 1.3

Whitehall $7,388,181 $7,554,360 2.2

MICHAEL GOOT

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Michael Goot covers the city of Glens Falls, town and village of Lake George and other northern Warren County communities. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog at http://poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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Cuomo's 2018 Foundation Aid proposal vs. 2017 amount

The following is the amount that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing in Foundation Aid, which is the basic grant that school districts receive. This does not include expense-based aids that districts receive as reimbursement for services used such as transportation, BOCES services or capital projects. 

District 2017-18 aid 2018-19 aid % increase
Abraham Wing $1,070,511 $1,151,565 7.6
Argyle $5,407,775 $5,484,783 1.4
Bolton $466,326 $467,491 0.2
Cambridge $7,727,149 $7,830,406 1.3
Corinth $9,009,364 $9,181,076 1.9
Fort Ann $4,009,368 $4,078,857 1.7
Fort Edward $4,953,969 $5,043,994 1.8
Glens Falls $13,152,465 $13,340,592 1.4
Granville $12,237,775 $12,411,922 1.4
Greenwich $6,929,950 $7,071,501 2
Hadley-Luzerne $6,152,515 $6,205,028 0.9
Hartford $4,734,267 $4,800,651 1.4
Hudson Falls $19,077,021 $19,366,798 1.5
Indian Lake $457,037 $458,179 0.2
Johnsburg $2,507,457 $2,513,725 0.2
Lake George $1,482,591 $1,486,297 0.2
Long Lake $253,140 $253,772 0.2
Minerva $885,513 $887,726 0.2
Newcomb $310,155 $310,930 0.2
North Warren $2,543,056 $2,549,413 0.2
Putnam $185,446 $250,909 35.3
Queensbury $14847,030 $15,162,002 2.1
Salem $5,274,819 $5,343,922 1.3
Saratoga Springs $21,682,326 $21,736,531 0.2
Schroon Lake $700,971 $702,723 0.2
Schuylerville $11,047,599 $11,222,963 1.6
South Glens Falls $17,358,422 $17,627,765 1.6
Ticonderoga $5,374,930 $5,426,900 1
Warrensburg $8,597,240 $8,707,580 1.3
Whitehall $7,388,181 $7,554,360 2.2

reporter

Reporter for The Post-Star, covering the city of Glens Falls, town and village of Lake George and northern Warren County communities.

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