Watervliet City Schools masthead
2014-15 Budget  

advocacy logo

Community members are invited to a regional education forum “New York schools STILL in fiscal peril: Our kids can’t wait another year” at Colonie High School on Thursday, January 30. The purpose of the forum is to call for an end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, which has cost area school districts $387 million in state aid over the last four years.  

State aid for education increases, GEA remains in Governor’s budget proposal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed investment in New York State schools would increase by $807 million or 3.8 percent next school year but his budget plan still fails to address the underlying problem facing Watervliet and other school districts across the state – the Gap Elimination Adjustment or GEA.

Under the proposed Executive budget released earlier this week, Watervliet would see a 2.65 percent increase or $353,927 more in funding in 2014-15 (excluding building aid). Still the district will face a loss of more than $500,000 in aid due to the GEA next year. Watervliet has lost close to $4.5 million in the years since the GEA was first enacted.

District officials are currently reviewing projected aid for the district under the Governor’s proposal as part of the district's 2014-15 school budget planning.

“The GEA has and will continue to have a devastating effect on our schools and the opportunities that we are able to provide our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori Caplan. “With the state running a budget surplus, the rationale state leaders have used for continuing the GEA no longer exists. What does exist because of the loss of revenue under the GEA is a widening achievement gap between students from more affluent zip codes and children from poorer zip codes across New York State.”

Last week, the NYS Comptroller released his report of the most fiscally stressed school districts in the state: Watervliet was at the top of that list.

Dr. Caplan attributes much of the district’s current fiscal crisis to four consecutive years of GEA reductions and a flawed state funding system that continues to shortchange small urban school districts with high needs.

“It’s no secret that our district is in dire fiscal shape,” said Dr. Caplan. “The comptroller’s report merely confirmed what we have been saying and that anyone who has attended our budget forums and presentations in recent years knows: we are hurting financially.”

The GEA was introduced in 2010 by former Gov. Paterson as a way for the state government to close its budget deficit by spreading the funding shortfall around to all school districts through a GEA reduction to the overall Foundation Aid due to schools.

Despite New York’s anticipated surplus moving forward, the governor’s proposal yesterday calls for only a partial restoration ($323 million) of funds withheld from districts through the GEA next school year. Despite a restoration of $186,587 to Watervliet, the district would still suffer an overall GEA loss of $514,949 in the 2014-15 school year.

New York schools STILL in fiscal peril: Our kids can’t wait another year

Meanwhile as district officials and Board of Education prepare to begin the budget development process for the 2014-15 school year, stakeholders from 47 school districts will converge on Colonie Central High School on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 6:30 p.m. to continue the unprecedented regional call to action on the fiscal crisis facing public schools, an effort that began last year. The event, “New York schools STILL in fiscal peril: Our kids can’t wait another year,” picks up where last year’s massive regional advocacy effort left off, among other things, calling for permanent end of the GEA.

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. View flyer for more information

The governor’s budget message also includes 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 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. Watervliet has offered a UPK program for several years and recently was awarded a state grant to expand its program from three to four classrooms.

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.

Much state funding focuses on NEW state education initiatives

bullet graphicInvesting $720 million over a five-year period in afterschool programs. Districts would have to submit plans to the State Education Department for approval.

bullet graphicAn $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.

bullet graphicA $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.

bullet graphicOfficially eliminating standardized tests for students in grades K-2. Currently there are no state required assessments in those grades.

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.

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