The good news is state aid to fund 700 school districts across New York will go up $1 billion.
The bad news is it’s not quite as much as school districts asked for.
“In terms of the overall increase, I would say we had hoped for more,” said Robert N. Lowry Jr., deputy director for the New York State Council of School Superintendents, “but we recognize the state has some reasons for concern.”
Aid for education will total $27.9 billion, up 3.7 percent, under the state budget tentatively agreed upon by lawmakers in Albany on Sunday. School aid is the largest part of the state budget.
Of that $1 billion increase, $618 million is in foundation aid, which goes to pay district operating costs. That’s more than the $330 million increase in foundation aid that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed.
All but one school district in Erie and Niagara counties will see an increase in state aid next year for programs, according to documents provided by the State Legislature.
The largest Erie County district increase goes to Lackawanna at 5.98 percent. Next were Clarence (5.16 percent), Depew (4.94 percent), Eden (4.68 percent) and Alden (4.20 percent).
Funding for the Buffalo Public Schools would increase 3.23 percent.
The lone district seeing a decrease in aid is Iroquois, which saw a 2.21 percent drop. Iroquois saw a similar drop last year (2.05 percent).
In total, Erie County school districts saw a 2.92 percent increase, from $1.208 billion to $1.244 billion. The funding does not include building aid, which is dependent on construction projects that districts already have approved. State aid varies by school district depending on factors like size, enrollment and wealth.
“It wasn’t a great year overall for education funding,” said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, who serves on the Education Committee in the Assembly. “As you know, there is a prediction of a revenue shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year, so we had to throttle back on spending.”
“Informally, districts say they need 4 percent to keep above water,” Ryan said Sunday. “Districts like Hamburg stayed almost flat in funding and that, accompanied with the 2 percent tax cap, makes it very difficult for that type of district. We saw a lot of districts have very similar small increases across Western New York."
On the other hand, urban districts, like Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Lackawanna, made out better.
“As we usually do, we tilt the scales toward the highest-need school districts, so Buffalo had a good year,” Ryan said. “They are, of course, our largest school district, and had about a $22 million increase over last year.”
Besides an increase in foundation aid, Buffalo received money for its community schools program and to continue school-based health centers, Ryan said. He also said Buffalo Public Schools received a half-million dollars for a program to assist with teacher diversity and help credentialed bilingual aides become teachers, Ryan said.
Meanwhile, Niagara County's 10 districts all saw increases, with the top gains by percentage in Wilson (5.89 percent) and Lew-Port (5.81 percent). Overall Niagara County saw a 3.09 percent increase from $297 million to over $306 million.
Niagara Falls saw aid go up more than 3 percent.
“I’m pleasantly surprised by the state budget. Niagara Falls fared well," said Mark Laurrie, superintendent for the Niagara Falls City School District. “We are never sure what we’re going to get, and I’m not disappointed. To say I’m ecstatic would be going overboard, but we’re not disappointed based on what we thought."
Laurrie said the school district will be able to make its budget without any program cutbacks or layoffs.
“I’m also pleased that it’s on time,” Laurrie said. “We have a board meeting Thursday and we vote on our budget on the 11th of April, so it is important that it’s on time.
“I just wish it wasn’t such a mystery,” Laurrie said. “Every year we come to this point ... we should have a formula that we can all follow, something that is predictable, something to budget for and plan for, and it’s not the dance of the lobbying. I don’t see why that can’t be — you have to do that in your household budgets. That’s my only question, it would be good to have more predictability from year to year.”
Here's what each district would get next year under the state budget, according to state aid runs provided by the Legislature.
The figures do not include building aid.
Akron: $13,458,446 – up 2.31%
Alden: $13,465,789 – up 4.20%
Amherst: $13,133,040 – up 1.86%
Buffalo: $669,190,501 – up 3.23%
Cheektowaga: $15,355,048 – up 2.64%
Clarence: $21,141,285 – up 5.16%
Cleveland Hill: $12,632,475 – up 2.52%
Depew: $17,596,062 – up 4.94%
East Aurora: $7,538,021 – up 1.81%
Eden: $10,722,742 – up 4.68%
Frontier: $32,270,871 – up 3.31%
Grand Island: $17,321,269 – up 3.44%
Hamburg: $23,283,525 – up 2.14%
Holland: $9,696,697 – up 3.46%
Iroquois: $13,606,688 – down 2.21%
Kenmore-Tonawanda: $52,790,882 – up 2.12%
Lackawanna: $38,222,246 – up 5.98%
Lake Shore: $28,516,337 – up 0.92%
Lancaster: $32,578,613 – up 1.70%
Maryvale: $16,021,678 – up 2.66%
North Collins: $7,439,982 – up 1.94%
Orchard Park: $24,082,630 – up 0.78%
Sloan: $15,415,087 – up 0.08%
Springville-Griffith: $18,205,970 – up 2.56%
Sweet Home: $21,030,761 – up 2.21%
Tonawanda: $17,607,479 – up 3.83%
West Seneca: $45,230,498 – up 2.53%
Williamsville: $36,562,818 – up 1.40%
Barker: $7,247,923 – up 5.41%
Lewiston-Porter: $14,465,739 – up 5.81%
Lockport: $49,501,470 – up 3.10%
Newfane: $17,794,142 – up 4.98%
Niagara Falls: $105,581,379 – up 3.04%
Niagara Wheatfield: $30,406,135 – up 1.04%
North Tonawanda: $37,202,563 – up 2.85%
Royalton-Hartland: $13,816,930 – up 0.43%
Starpoint: $17,667,576 – up 2.72%
Wilson: $12,657,116 – up 5.89%
Here is the link to state aid figures (including building aid) for all school districts in New York State.
News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious contributed to this report.
Story topics: new york state budget