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Guest Column

March 1, 2014

State's budget gimmick is hindering schools

(Continued)

Since its inception in 2010, schools across our region have seen their state funding reduced by millions of dollars. Margaretville Central School has lost $2,367,800; Roxbury’s aid has been cut by $1,225,847. There are only two ways to deal with this loss of funding: raise property taxes to make up for the deficit or reduce spending by eliminating educational opportunities for our children. Our districts have done a bit of both. Local taxes have gone up more than they would have in the absence of the GEA, and programs have been reduced or eliminated.

Now, four years after the budget crisis, Gov. Cuomo is telling us that the state will soon be in a budget surplus. His budget proposal for 2014-15 includes a number of tax reductions. And yet, it also includes a continuation of the GEA.

If the state can afford tax reductions, there is no gap in the budget. If there is no gap, there is nothing to eliminate, therefore there is no need to adjust funding for education. Simply put, there is no longer a need for the GEA.

The resolution adopted by the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education calls upon the legislature to adopt a budget that doesn’t include the GEA. Schools across the state have done their part to help New York out of the financial crisis. It’s time to return to the state aid formulas as the basis for funding education in New York State.

These formulas exist so that less well-off districts can provide their students with the same educational opportunities available to children growing up in more affluent communities. For too long, we have struggled to keep property taxes within the tax levy limit while at the same time trying to maintain our programs.

School Boards across the state have been lobbying their legislators in an attempt to immediately end the GEA. So far, this effort has not been successful. Our children and children all across New York State who live in areas which are dependent on state funding to provide them a sound basic education cannot wait another year. Funding needs to be restored to the level promised by the formulas now.

It is time to end the GEA. We encourage citizens to join us in this effort by letting your legislators know your concerns about this issue.

Lee Austin is president of Margaretville Central School Board of Education, and Ed Fersch is president of Roxbury Central School Board of Education.

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