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Most schools see aid increases in Cuomo’s proposed budget

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North country schools may finally get some of the money they’ve been asking for.

In Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2013-14 executive budget proposal, most schools would get increases in aid after years of budget cuts.

This year’s budget proposal takes out less money to offset the state’s deficit, also known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment, according to Jack J. Boak Jr., Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services superintendent.

“We were hoping they’d eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment completely, but they didn’t do that,” Mr. Boak said.

He said that while schools will be receiving more money, many have been “teetering on the edge of insolvency” for several years.

“It’s not as good as we would have liked it,” Mr. Boak said.

Mr. Cuomo proposed a range of aid as high as $46.75 million for Indian River Central School District and as low as $2.3 million for Colton-Pierrepont Central School District.

In total:

n Jefferson County schools are proposed to receive $179,946,755 in total aid, a $7,570,740 increase from this year.

n Lewis County schools are proposed to receive $54,077,946, a $1,008,939 increase from this year’s state aid.

n St. Lawrence County schools are proposed to receive $187,696,927, a $7,883,541 increase from this year’s aid.

The biggest losses in total aid were found in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties:

n Copenhagen Central School District is proposed to lose $192,714, a 2.6 percent decrease from the current year. The district has $ 7,270,210 in proposed aid for next year’s budget.

n Clifton-Fine Central School District is proposed to lose $59,610, a 1.3 percent decrease from the current year’s budget.

The district has $4,474,814 in proposed aid for next year’s budget.

n Colton-Pierrepont Central School District is proposed to lose $84,481, a 3.5 percent decrease from the current year’s budget. It has $2,310,469 in proposed aid for next year’s budget.

St. Lawrence County also saw some of the biggest increases in proposed aid in the north country.

“Ogdensburg and Canton really stick out as the ones that got really good increases,” said Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

Ogdensburg is looking at a 10.9 percent increase in proposed aid, about $23.4 million in total.

Canton has a 9.85 percent increase in proposed aid, about $14.3 million in total.

NEW INITIATIVES PROPOSED

The governor’s proposed budget also reflects his support for full-day prekindergarten, increased time in the classroom, targeted aid for high-need districts and money to help offset increases in fixed costs, such as health care and retirement benefits.

“One of the things the school supers have been discussing is the spike in pension,” Mrs. Russell said. “What he’s proposing is to provide a long-term stabilization program that would bring that down to 12.5 percent for the Teachers Retirement System.”

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she was happy to see that Mr. Cuomo wanted to funnel more money to needier districts.

“I applaud the Governor’s effort to steer more education aid to rural schools like ours,” she said in a news release. “I look forward to studying his proposal with a goal of making the aid formula more equitable and making sure our schools get their fair share.”

Mrs. Russell agreed that the state aid formula needed to change in order to be more equitable.

“We not only need to drive the money to high-need schools, but we also need to change the formula,” she said.

The 2013-14 executive budget proposal’s school aid figures can be found at http://publications.budget.ny.gov/eBudget1314/fy1314localities/schoolaid/1314schoolruns.pdf.

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