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Local News

March 28, 2013

School officials: State budget could be worse

While area school leaders were glad Wednesday that school aid in the upcoming state budget will be more than was initially expected, several said tough choices still lie ahead. Some added that the totals were likely inflated compared to what they’ll actually receive.

With the state Senate approving the budget Wednesday morning and the Assembly soon due to take up the bills approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders last week, the aid figures were released Tuesday night. A budget is expected by the Monday deadline.

The state is providing $21.2 billion in aid to education in 2013-14, an increase of $936 million over last year and $436 million more than Cuomo’s executive budget proposed at the start of the budget process. Schools have to approve a budget that will be decided by voters in each district May 21.

“We won’t have to go as deep” in planning further cutbacks, Oneonta City School District interim Superintendent David Rowley said, because of more than $500,000 in additional state aid his district will receive compared to Cuomo’s original proposal. “This is far better than what I thought we would get.”

The district will receive an additional $602,000 for a total of about $11 million, the total for all schools mentioned is without building aid, as compared to 2012-13, according to state aid runs.

The Oneonta City School District had approved moving sixth grade to the middle school and is considering a number of staff cuts to close what appeared to be a $1.5 million budget gap resulting from decreases in state funding over several years.

The additional aid won’t change the plans discussed, but “this will change our thinking about further cuts,” he said. “It’s a huge benefit.”

He thanked Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, for their continued support. He also thanked other legislators who heard the problems of area schools that were affected by the earlier projections. “This is good news,” he said.

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