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Governor budget proposal touts aid increase, but GEA cuts remain over $1M for BKW 

Lend your voice on Jan. 30 to help eliminate the GEA!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2014-15 Executive Budget would increase aid to education statewide by $807 million but his budget plan still fails to address the underlying problem facing BKW and other school districts – the Gap Elimination Adjustment or GEA.

Berne-Knox-Westerlo would see an overall aid increase, compared to this year's budget, of $200,620 – or 2.29% – for 2014-15 under the budget Cuomo released last week. However, BKW is slated to lose almost $1.1 million in aid originally allocated to the district, and this loss is due to the continuation of the GEA. This loss, added to the GEA losses of $5.4 million since the 2010-11 school year, would bring the total GEA reduction for BKW to nearly $6.5 million over five years.

While there is an increase in proposed aid for 2014-15 compared to this year, BKW's aid numbers stand below what they were in the 2006-07 school year. [See chart below.]

“We’re working diligently to streamline the district’s budget in any way we can while still providing as many opportunities for students as possible,” said Interim Superintendent Lonnie Palmer. “District’s across the state are doing this hard work, and we need the leaders of this state to stand up for education, especially as New York faces a surplus. If there is no longer a gap to adjust for; it’s time to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment.”

On January 30, Mr. Palmer is inviting concerned BKW residents to join a regional advocacy event, where representatives from all 47 Capital Region school districts will meet with area legislators to describe the impact on students and schools the aid reductions have brought and to call for a restoration of adequate and equitable aid for all school districts.

The district encourages parents, teachers, students and community members to attend this important event and hear what you can do to help your schools during these difficult financial times.

Learn more about the January 30 event here

More of the governor’s budget proposal for education

Universal Pre-Kindergarten

The governor’s budget message last week also included several new proposals for education. One of those initiatives is the phase-in of universal, full-day pre-kindergarten statewide. High-quality early education is regarded as one of the best investments to be made in education, but many schools do not have the space, staffing or equipment for such a program, acknowledged the governor. He proposed spending $1.5 billion over five years to phase in the program.

Smart Schools Technology Bond

Gov. Cuomo also proposed a $2 billion bond for a Smart Schools initiative to go before voters in November. If approved, the bond would give schools money for infrastructure improvements related to high-speed broadband access and classroom technology (e.g., smartboards, tablets). Schools could also use the funds to construct new pre-kindergarten classrooms, if the funds allow or if they prefer. The state would distribute the funds to schools based on the existing state aid formula. BKW’s share of this bond would be $883,468, if approved by voters.

Other Misc. Proposals for Education

More new education initiatives in his proposal includes:

Investing $720 million over a five-year period in afterschool programs. Districts would have to submit plans to the State Education Department for approval.
An $8 million SUNY/CUNY full-scholarship program for the top 10 percent of high school graduates. Eligible graduates must pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math and work in New York State for five years following graduation from college.
A $20 million Teacher Excellence Fund that would allow teachers rated as “highly effective” to be eligible to receive rewards of up to $20,000 annually.
Officially eliminating standardized tests for students in grades K-2. Currently there are no state assessments in those grades.

Property Tax Freeze

The Executive Budget also proposes a two-year property tax freeze for homeowners residing in school districts that meet certain conditions. During the first year of the freeze, a district would have to pass a budget with a levy that stays within its property tax levy cap. During the second year, in addition to again staying within its cap, a district would have to agree to and implement a state-approved plan for shared services and consolidation.
These proposals will be deliberated by the Assembly and Senate who will determine whether these items will be a part of the final New York state budget for 2014-15.

Visit http://www.budget.ny.gov/ for more details on the governor’s budget.

 

Aid Reductions, District by District: Interactive GEA Map

Under the GEA, 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. Since it was first introduced for 2010-11, the GEA has schools in the 47-district region $387 million in promised State aid. Here’s how the GEA breaks down for the 47 districts in Capital Region and Questar III BOCES. Click on a red location marker to learn more about the district.