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Massena Central School Board members request immediate elimination of Gap Elimination Adjustment

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MASSENA - To the applause of about a dozen audience members, the Massena Central School District’s Board of Education approved a resolution this week that calls for the immediate elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

“It’s a statement by the school district to request the immediate elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment from the state education formula when calculating state aid. I think it’s very self-explanatory,” Interim Superintendent William H. Flynn said.

In the 2009-10 school year, a law known as the Deficit Reduction Assessment - renamed the Gap Elimination Adjustment in 2010-11- began to cut into schools’ state aid allocations. The GEA helped reduce the state’s deficit at the expense of school districts, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

North country lawmakers have united in their opposition to the GEA, which siphons money away from schools to pay off the state’s deficit.

State Sens. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, have said they intended to work with their Senate colleagues to implement an end to the GEA in the coming fiscal year’s budget. Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, has also said that the GEA has to go.

The resolution passed by the Massena Central Board of Education calls upon the New York state Legislature to immediate eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

“The Gap Elimination Adjustment since its inception has reduced state aid to the Massena Central School District by $7,952,922,” according to the resolution, which notes that the reduction in aid has resulted in a cost shift to the local Massena Central School District property taxpayers.

“This cost shift has resulted in unsustainable measures to balance the Massena Central School District budgets, including the reduction and elimination of school programs, personnel and services, and the reduction of school district fund reserves,” it reads.

In their resolution, board members note that efforts by the district to sustain programs and services and contain budget “are simultaneously constrained by property tax levy cap legislation, unfunded and underfunded mandates and increases in pension, health care costs and mandated implementation of Common Core Learning Standards and teacher/principal performance reviews.”

They point out that, because of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, funding for K-12 programs has systematically been reduced since 2010-11 and, although the state has been touting recent state aid increases, school districts are actually receiving less state aid than they did in 2008-09. Some districts, they said, have even seen state aid decreases because of the GEA.

In a Finance Committee meeting held following this week’s board of education meeting, Finance Committee Chairman Loren Fountaine said eliminating the gap would be a big boost toward lessening the $4.1 million gap they’re currently facing in their 2014-15 budget proposal.

“Getting rid of the Gap (Elimination Adjustment) would bring us down to around $3.5 (million gap). That goes quite a way toward helping us close the gap,” Mr. Fountaine said.

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