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Erie 1 BOCES superintendents warn of $23 million budget gap

School districts in Erie 1 BOCES face a collective budget gap of nearly $23 million, superintendents have told local state legislators.

"Simply put, the governor's proposal does not even provide sufficient funds for school districts to deliver the current school year's instructional program in the next school year," the 19 school district superintendents and the Erie 1 BOCES superintendent wrote in a letter to the Western New York delegation.

The letter calls the governor's proposed school aid "inadequate" to support public schools.

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"In addition to the adequate funding for public education, we need something that is predictable, transparent and sustainable so we know what we're dealing with over time," Erie 1 BOCES Superintendent Lynn M. Fusco said.

This year's proposal from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would increase aid by $1 billion, or about 4 percent. Much of the increase is targeted for specific programs, but the increase in foundation aid – operating aid that forms the bulk of districts’ state aid amounts – would increase an average 1.7 percent across the 28 school districts in Erie County.

The 19 districts in Erie I BOCES are Akron, Alden, Amherst, Cheektowaga Sloan, Cheektowaga Central, Clarence, Cleveland Hill, Depew, Frontier, Grand Island, Hamburg, Ken-Ton, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Maryvale, Sweet Home, Tonawanda, West Seneca and Williamsville.

School administrators know as well as anyone that the state Legislature usually changes the governor's school aid proposal, and all of the 19 district superintendents who signed the letter to state legislators are talking with their representatives.

They are asking for:

  • A statewide total of $1.5 billion in foundation aid.
  • Reform of the property tax cap.
  • An aid formula that promotes equity.

While it seems like an annual battle cry for school superintendents, Fusco said supporters of schools have always asked for enough funding to sustain programs and aid that is predictable so administrators can plan future budgets.

Because the governor's proposal did not continue the foundation aid formula, finance officers can't predict the long term impact of the aid, Fusco said.

"It really doesn't help support sustained and long-range planning for school districts," she said.

The lobbying in recent years has been about restoring funds lost through the gap elimination adjustment. That was achieved last year.

"Underneath that GEA message was 'Please give us something that we can have that is transparent and predicable,' " Fusco said.

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