Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 2, 2014

Falls school officials unhappy with Cuomo budget numbers

Niagara Gazette — Budget planners in the Niagara Falls City School District got some good news when Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his executive budget proposal.

Cuomo’s proposal provided the city’s district with a $1.7 million increase in state aid, a significant number if compared to the figures neighboring districts Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield, both reductions in help, saw in the same release. It comes out to a 2 percent increase.

But such an increase wasn’t received well by district leadership, which bemoaned the continued freeze of some of the district’s most lucrative in-come.

“Obviously we’re extremely disappointed,” Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said. “We’re still not back to a level of funding we were at in 2008-09.”

Much of the proposed increase in the governor’s run is provided by a reduction of the state’s gap elimination adjustment. Created by Gov. David Paterson following the 2007 and 2008 financial meltdowns of the housing market and Wall Street, the gap elimination originally took $8 million from district state aid in order to close a multibillion-dollar state-wide shortfall.

Cuomo’s plan would see the district return $2.2 million in 2014-15, about $1.3 million less than this current year.

GEA restoration, according to state Sen. George Maziarz, is tied into poverty levels, which led Cuomo’s proposal to provide a high level to Niagara Falls, while a district like Lew-Port would see its figure drop to $1.8 million next year, a decrease of only $46,000 from this year.

Still, it’s not enough for some of the district’s decision makers.

“Our district’s three or four times the size,” school board President Russell Petrozzi said. “The big thing is the poverty rate in Niagara Falls is astronomical compared to Lewiston. Taxpayers are expected to be able to take care of education by their ability to pay. That’s not happening here.”

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