By Ariel Zangla, Daily Freeman
Posted: 01/14/14, 10:44 PM EST
SAUGERTIES >> All the schools within her senate district need to see increased state aid for the next few years to get out of the financial hole they are in, state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk said Tuesday.
“I would have to say, all the schools in my district are in a financial hole,” Tkaczyk told the Saugerties school board during a meeting Tuesday. “And last year they got out of the hole a little bit, but they’re still in the hole. And it’s important that we see increased funding for a few years to get us back on track with where we were.”
Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, said the state had to reduce its budget during the recession and as a result most schools are receiving the level of education aid they received in the 2008-09 fiscal year. At the same time, costs continue to rise and property owners are probably shouldering more of the school budget then they did five years ago, she said.
“To me, we can’t really reduce local property taxes if we don’t support our schools with more state aid,” Tkaczyk said.
Tkaczyk, a former member of her local school board, recently joined with some other state legislators in calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include $1.9 billion in new education funding when he releases his state budget proposal next week. She said that funding would help districts stop having to make cuts in the classroom and provide them more resources to meet state mandates such as those associated with implementing the Common Core standards.
When asked how likely it was for the additional funding to be included in the state budget, Tkaczyk said there was “no chance if we don’t ask.” She added that last year the education funding was increased by $900 million. Tkaczyk said the state will have to see what is in the governor’s budget proposal and then what the Legislature negotiates for the final spending plan. When that budget proposal comes out, school districts should let their lawmakers know if they want to see changes in it, she said.
School board Vice President Thomas Ham said districts also need mandate relief on top of the increased funding. He said the state also needs to do away with the “gap elimination adjustment” levied against school districts.
The state withholds aid to school districts through the gap elimination adjustment to help fill its revenue shortfall.
Tkaczyk said she agreed the gap adjustment should be eliminated, but that an influx of money to school districts would help with that issue. She added that the state is making historic changes in education and not giving districts, in her opinion, the time or resources necessary to make adjustments.