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Schools slated to receive increase in aid; a closer look at projections for GCSD

March 27, 2013—While the New York State legislature has yet to officially adopt a budget for 2013-14, state leaders are projecting an increase in state aid for public schools beyond what was originally included in Governor Cuomo’s executive budget. Guilderland Central School District is slated to receive a net increase in aid of $374,095 beyond what the district was projecting in the Superintendent’s budget proposal.

However, the district’s total year-to-year increase in aid will be only $77,890 or 0.37 percent. (See detailed explanation below)

“In today’s economic environment, an increase in aid of any amount is welcome news for school districts,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marie Wiles. “Still, the year-to-year increases in school aid are not keeping pace with the costs of public education. Guilderland, like districts throughout the state, will continue to be challenged as we try to balance our mission of education all students with our responsibility to local taxpayers.”

The restoration in state funding follows months of regional and statewide advocacy to provide adequate and equitable funding for education.

“We are very appreciative of the work our local elected officials have done to shine a spotlight on the need for more adequate school funding and for their commitment to making a change in Albany,” said Wiles. “We also want to recognize the hard work our parents, students, staff and community members who have advocated for our schools throughout the past several weeks. By writing letters, making phone calls, sending e-mails and attending rallies, their voices have been heard by those who can bring about meaningful change for our students and our schools.”

Also included as part of the aid increase is a $418, 856 restoration of the district’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) for the 2013-14 school year. The district was originally set to lose $4.1 million as a result of the GEA but will instead now see a loss of $3.7 million.

“While definitely a step in the right direction, the projected GEA restoration is only ten percent of what has been taken away from the district,” said Wiles.

The GEA law was first introduced for the 2010-11 fiscal year by then-Governor Paterson as a way to help close New York’s then $10 billion budget deficit. Under the legislation, a portion of the funding shortfall at the state level is divided among all school districts throughout the state and reflected as a reduction in school district state aid. The GEA is a negative number, money that is deducted from the aid originally due to the district. In 2012-13, Guilderland Central School District saw an overall loss in funds of $4.1 million as a result of the GEA. Since the program began three years ago, the total GEA reduction in school aid for GCSD amounts to $12.3 million.

News of a state aid increase for Guilderland comes just more than a week in advance of the Board of Education finalizing a spending plan for the upcoming school year. As they prepare to adopt the budget on April 9, the Board will consider its options for the allocation of the additional aid: restoration of programs and staff, lowering the tax levy, reducing the fund balance allocation previously earmarked in the superintendent’s budget proposal—or a combination of all three options.

A closer look at Guilderland’s projected year-to-year increase in state aid
While local media outlets have reported that Guilderland Central School District will receive an increase in state aid of $832,146 (+5.2 percent) over what the district is receiving in the current school year, as stated above this figure is not exactly as it seems. GCSD is actually looking at an aid increase of $77,890 or 0.37 percent over the current school year.

State aid calculations are complicated, at best, and are based on estimates and projections. Actual aid amounts for school districts are often above or below the number published by the state, based on numerous factors.

For example, at the time of the state budget adoption last spring (2012), GCSD’s aid for 2012-13 was projected by the state as $21,404,580 (+3.85 percent). However, based on actual figures of enrollment and expenses, the district is slated to receive only $20,669,790 in state aid for the current school year—almost $735,000 less than what was shown on the state aid run.

Looking at 2013-14 and the recent aid numbers released, GCSD is slated to receive $21,422,161 (+5.22 percent excluding building aid) in the upcoming school year. Following the pattern of last year, and many years prior to that, district leaders took a closer look at the state’s projections and developed a more realistic estimate of projected aid. After making adjustments that reduced aid in the areas of special education, BOCES, and transportation, and accounting for the amount of aid received below what was anticipated in 2012-13, GCSD arrived at the expected year-to-year increase in aid of $77,890.

For more information on the 2013-14 Guilderland Central School District budget, please visit the School Budget News home page.