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Guest Column

March 1, 2014

State's budget gimmick is hindering schools

Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called “gap elimination adjustment.”

This aspect of the state budget affects every taxpayer in New York State. Unfortunately, it is not widely understood.

The GEA was established in 2010 near the end of then-Gov. David Paterson’s only term in office. At the time, the state was facing a severe financial crisis. There was a sizeable “gap” between the state’s income and its expenses.

One of the solutions to eliminate this gap was to reduce each school district’s allotment of state aid. Schools struggled that year, but we understood the severity of the crisis and did our part to help New York’s long-term fiscal survival. Now, four years later, the GEA has become a fixture in the state budget.

New York’s Constitution gives every child the right to a sound basic education. In order to ensure that there is a basic level of spending on education in each school district, the state supplements local property taxes with state aid. The amount of aid each district receives is based on its relative wealth — more goes to those districts that are less able to raise funds locally.

The Roxbury and Margaretville school districts, along with every other district in our region, are dependent on state funding for a sizeable portion of their budgets. Approximately thirty percent of the funds used in each of our districts comes from New York State.

The GEA reduces the amount of aid received by school districts. The reduction is not a flat dollar amount. Rather, it is a proportion of aid each district was slated to receive based on the state aid formulas. Thus, the more dependent a community is on state funds for the operation of its school, the more money was withheld to balance the state budget.

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