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With state budget passed, schools close in on final proposals

With state budget passed, schools close in on final proposals

From the Find out what made the cut in this year's state budget series
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New York State Legislature passes 2020 budget

The Assembly passed its 2019-20 budget early Monday morning, which included an even $1 billion for education and made the property tax cap permanent. 

New York state education spending will be an even $1 billion next year, lawmakers decided as they finalized the budget in Albany on Monday morning.

Education received a slight boost from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial budget proposal in January, increasing funds from $956 million to $1 billion for the 2019-20 school year.

The amount is a 3.8 percent increase from last year’s total and allows school districts to begin finalizing their own budget proposals as the May budget votes approach.

Hudson Falls Central School District Superintendent Linda Goewey said the added funds have absolutely helped with this year’s budget. The district is set to receive more than $467,000 in Foundation Aid for the 2019-20 school year, which is a 2.38 percent increase to last year’s number.

Goewey said the additional funds will go to paying for increased costs in health care and salaries within the district.

Hadley-Luzerne Central School District Superintendent Beecher Baker said his district will only receive around $44,000 more than it was already getting, but every little bit helps.

“In the scope of a $20 million budget, it’s not a lot of money,” Baker said, “But we’re not having to cut as much as we thought.”

Baker said the district will try to remain below the 1 percent tax cap this year, and added that the district is always trying to perfect the balancing act between maintaining its programs for students and keeping costs low for residents of the district.

Queensbury Union Free School District Superintendent Douglas Huntley said his district was not receiving that much more in Foundation Aid, but there are other provisions in the budget he thought were positives.

The budget contains language that will allow SUNY schools to reduce or waive tuition for dual-enrolled high school students taking college courses. He said the provision will open up more opportunities for students to get a head start on college and take courses at local schools before they finish high school.

The budget also included a provision making the property tax cap law permanent, a decision that was just a matter of time, according to Hudson Falls Central School District Business Manager Kevin Polunci.

“We’ve been expecting it and it doesn’t really affect us because we’ve stayed below the cap each year,” Polunci said.

Huntley said a tax cap is a good thing for New York state, but there were several changes he would like to see to a permanent measure.

For instance, he said the current language of the tax cap does not allow a district to match rises in inflation above 2 percent. He said he would like to see language that addresses the possibility of higher levels of inflation, as well as preventing cases where schools have a negative tax cap.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said the total increase in Foundation Aid is about the same as last year, but the distribution formula has been tweaked to target more money to high-needs schools. That means local schools that are not in that category will not see large increases.

“There are some schools in my district that are getting less than 1 percent of an increase,” she said.

The budget contained good news for Fort Edward, as that district was able to get a total of $400,000 in supplemental aid to help the district deal with a large drop in assessed value of its property, largely due to the assessment reduction on the former dewatering plant property.

Also, the budget increased funding for community colleges by an additional $100 per full-time equivalent student. Even better was the inclusion of a “hold harmless” provision that ensures that community colleges will get at least 98 percent of the aid they received this year, even if their enrollment declines, which is a problem right now.

The only ways that colleges can make up that revenue is to increase tuition or seek more money from the sponsoring counties.

New York State School Board Association Executive Director Timothy Kremer praised many provisions of the budget in a press release, saying it included a number of victories for school districts and students.

He said although the $618 million increase in Foundation Aid was below the association’s request, it was nearly double Cuomo’s initial offer. Kremer also highlighted the decision to leave spending within districts up to their boards of education.

“Equally important,” Kremer said, “the budget preserves local school board authority to allocate funding within school district buildings.”

Some advocacy groups were not as satisfied with the new budget and called for further increases in Foundation Aid, especially in poorer districts.

Jasmine Gripper, legislative director of the Alliance for Quality Education coalition, said in a press release that the budget fails to address the needs of students and families and will not be enough to counteract overcrowded classrooms or update old technology.

“To top it off, the Legislature embraced the governor’s plan for making the property tax cap permanent, but got nothing to help out our school children in exchange,” Gripper said. “In the end, budgets are about priorities and this one does not prioritize children’s education.”

State Foundation Aid projections, 2019-20

The state Education Department has published state aid projections for the 2019-20 school year. All schools received a slight increase in Foundation Aid, which is the basic grant awarded based upon a formula that takes into account number of students and a district's income and property wealth. This does not include other aid districts receive for capital projects, transportation and BOCES services.

District Foundation Aid 2018-19 Foundation Aid 2019-20 Percent Increase
Abraham Wing $1,166,155 $1,231,526 5.3%
Argyle $5,547,608 $5,663,817 2.1%
Bolton $483,412 $487,037 0.7%
Cambridge $7,942,225 $8,126,655 2.3%
Corinth $9,340,296 $9,568,760 2.4%
Fort Ann $4,137,964 $4,246,561 2.6%
Fort Edward $5,060,199 $5,127,414 1.3%
Glens Falls $13,402,362 $13,810,389 3.0%
Granville $12,565,383 $12,847,038 2.2%
Greenwich $7,183,497 $7,357,506 2.4%
Hadley-Luzerne $6,279,211 $6,367,003 1.4%
Hartford $4,857,888 $4,960,583 2.1%
Hudson Falls $19,643,901 $20,111,425 2.3%
Indian Lake $469,267 $472,786 0.7%
Johnsburg $2,555,099 $2,580,649 1.0%
Lake George $1,545,541 $1,557,132 0.7%
Long Lake $260,690 $262,645 0.7%
Minerva $902,338 $909,105 0.7%
Newcomb $319,168 $321,561 0.7%
North Warren $2,603,621 $2,623,148 0.7%
Putnam $262,692 $289,630 9.3%
Queensbury $15,222,072 $15,336,237 0.7%
Salem $5,425,268 $5,563,600 2.5%
Schroon Lake $730,987 $736,469 0.7%
Schuylerville $11,396,115 $11,594,903 1.7%
South Glens Falls $17,688,232 $17,820,893 0.7%
Ticonderoga $5,516,081 $5,596,241 1.4%
Warrensburg $8,817,971 $9,058,595 2.7%
Whitehall $7,667,197 $7,895,781 2.9%

State Foundation Aid projections, 2019-20

The state Education Department has published state aid projections for the 2019-20 school year. All schools received a slight increase in Foundation Aid, which is the basic grant awarded based upon a formula that takes into account number of students and a district’s income and property wealth. This does not include other aid districts receive for capital projects, transportation and BOCES services.

District Foundation Aid 2018-19 Foundation Aid 2019-20 Percent Increase

Abraham Wing $1,166,155 $1,231,526 5.3%

Argyle $5,547,608 $5,663,817 2.1%

Bolton $483,412 $487,037 0.7%

Cambridge $7,942,225 $8,126,655 2.3%

Corinth $9,340,296 $9,568,760 2.4%

Fort Ann $4,137,964 $4,246,561 2.6%

Fort Edward $5,060,199 $5,127,414 1.3%

Glens Falls $13,402,362 $13,810,389 3.0%

Granville $12,565,383 $12,847,038 2.2%

Greenwich $7,183,497 $7,357,506 2.4%

Hadley-Luzerne $6,279,211 $6,367,003 1.4%

Hartford $4,857,888 $4,960,583 2.1%

Hudson Falls $19,643,901 $20,111,425 2.3%

Indian Lake $469,267 $472,786 0.7%

Johnsburg $2,555,099 $2,580,649 1.0%

Lake George $1,545,541 $1,557,132 0.7%

Long Lake $260,690 $262,645 0.7%

Minerva $902,338 $909,105 0.7%

Newcomb $319,168 $321,561 0.7%

North Warren $2,603,621 $2,623,148 0.7%

Putnam $262,692 $289,630 9.3%

Queensbury $15,222,072 $15,336,237 0.7%

Salem $5,425,268 $5,563,600 2.5%

Schroon Lake $730,987 $736,469 0.7%

Schuylerville $11,396,115 $11,594,903 1.7%

South Glens Falls $17,688,232 $17,820,893 0.7%

Ticonderoga $5,516,081 $5,596,241 1.4%

Warrensburg $8,817,971 $9,058,595 2.7%

Whitehall $7,667,197 $7,895,781 2.9%

SAMUEL NORTHROP

snorthrop@poststar.com

93d88b5a-54b4-11e9-abb0-00163ec2aa77

Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.

Post-Star reporter Michael Goot contributed to this report.

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