Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 31, 2013

Cuomo's budget a boon for Falls schools

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — He said the governor's combined changes will see Niagara Falls realize an additional $2.5 million in state aid, but some of the money isn't an increase in aid, but rather a decrease in a state-wide reduction forced on districts following the housing market crash and bank collapse of 2008.

Then-Gov. David Paterson instituted the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) to help the state stabilize a massive shortfall, which Cuomo's proposal indicates may be improving.

State aid is broken up into several different pots, with the largest being foundation aid. This money is the general dollars given districts for general operation and helps them cover salary expenses. When the housing market collapsed, Paterson took away a portion of each district's foundation aid to cover the shortfall and has yet to be ended.

It created two different numbers and two different formulas, though, which Hyland said favor different types of districts. If Cuomo's proposal had provided more foundation aid, he said, those the rich districts on Long Island – and Lew-Port – would receive more additional funding.

Hyland and the district prefers the governor's actual idea.

"Lew-Port would probably prefer the state put more money into the foundation aid," Hyland said. "But the formula for foundation aid in our opinion is not an equitable distribution of aid. We prefer them addressing the GEA because of this."

Revenues aren't entirely rosy just because state aid is increasing, though. The district is preparing for a third consecutive year without the benefit of casino revenue promised them as part of the hotly-contested compact between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state.

In a school district which hasn't increased its tax levy in 19 years, all the non-local tax money it receives plays an important role in keeping education in the Falls as inexpensive as possible.

"We're getting really nervous now," Hyland said. "It's to the point now where it's been three years, we can't recognize that revenue anymore. That's $750,000 we can't include."

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