Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 31, 2013

Cuomo's budget a boon for Falls schools

Niagara Gazette — Though it's still in the planning stages, the Niagara Falls City School District's operating budget for 2013-14 is shaping up to look a little different than it has in the past. At least in terms of revenues.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget, proposed last week, contained within it a massive change to how school districts receive state aid. Unlike the richer school districts like those on Long Island and, locally, Lew-Port, Williamsville and Lancaster, Niagara Falls is set to receive quite a bit more from Albany next year.

Multiple types of state aid gets distributed by formula, based either on high or low tax levy, spending and student enrollment. Cuomo's changes reduce the percentage distributed to lower needs district and provide extra money to high-needs districts like Niagara Falls.

Falls Administrator for School Business Services Timothy Hyland said the governor's changes are exactly what they've been seeking for a long time as part of a joint lawsuit by small city districts against the state.

"We felt it was not equitable for high tax aid to be given to districts which don't really need it. It represents a step in the right direction," he said.

Hyland said he understands Lew-Port's position, the only Niagara County district hurt by the state's changes. Because of a lack of an industrial footprint in the northwest county district, the burden for funding the school rests almost entirely on taxpayers.

But if you take Lew-Port out of the equation, he said, the majority of the districts being negatively affected by the state's new formulas exist in highly affluent areas of Long Island, where a $100,000 house here is worth closer to $400,000.

"The tax rate there is half of what we have," Hyland said. "But because of the greater evaluations, they're paying more in taxes. We'd much prefer to be in Long Island's situation, because it's actually creating wealth. But we're not."

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