School districts across the state are facing additional teacher and program cuts, many down to the bare essentials. The biggest educational change in the state budget was taking half of the money planned for competitive grants and putting it back into the general school aid fund. As our Katie Gibas reports, even though many school districts are getting money back from the state, several are still losing money in the end.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he was putting $805 million back into the budget to fund schools, many educators were on the verge of literally jumping for joy. But for some, like Liverpool and Tully, the celebration was premature. Both ended up losing state aid.
"We were not assuming a great increase in state aid, but we were certainly surprised by a decrease," said Tully Superintendent Kraig Pritts.
Now that legislators have had their way with the budget, many school districts are getting money back. The additional funds put Tully $123,000 over their current aid numbers. Liverpool received an additional $1.26 million for next year. But that's still over $2 million less than the current year.
"We just got $1.2 million more, but we've got a $9.5 million deficit. Does it help? Sure it helps, but it doesn't even come close to getting us back to zero," said Liverpool Superintendent Dr. Richard Johns.
"The economic crisis at the state level is my problem to solve because the state has come out and said, 'We simply don't have enough money, so we're not going to give the municipalities and districts.' So now the municipalities and districts are in the situation where our primary funder has said that's it," said SCSD CFO Suzanne Slack.
One of the biggest issues educators had with the state aid funding formula for this year was that Governor Andrew Cuomo initially announced $250 million would be set aside for competitive grants. And CNY educators say they simply wouldn't be able to compete with some of the wealthier districts, so in the end, legislators split the difference and now only half of that will be going into competitive grants.
Pitts said, "Many of us didn't fall into areas that qualified for competitive grants. Anything that puts more general funding back into the school districts to use for programs and students is always a positive thing."
Districts say they've made unsustainable cuts to balance their budgets over the last few years and without change in Albany, they're not sure how they'll be able to continue educating students.
School districts still have some time to work out their budgets. Boards of Education must adopt a balanced financial plan by mid-April.