Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

March 19, 2014

Schools asking for increase in state aid

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — School districts across New York would probably love to see an increase in state aid, especially by reduction or removal of the gap elimination adjustment.

Dealing with a $1.3 million gap in its 2014-2015 budget, Lockport City School District officials are still looking for places to cut. Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said the district has cut everywhere and made a number of tough financial decisions to help weather the fiscal storm.

And now, some help from Albany would be appreciated.

“This year there is great interest by districts in the elimination of the gap elimination adjustment,” Bradley told the Board of Education on March 5.

The gap elimination adjustment is a formula that reduces how much a school district receives in foundation aid, a major component of the overall state aid the school receives.

The adjustment was enacted during the 2009-10 school year under its original name, the Deficit Reduction Assessment. In 2011-12, state lawmakers made the GEA a permanent part of the state aid breakdowns. The GEA’s purpose was to reduce state subsidies to public schools in order to help Albany to cover its budget gap.

From 2010-11 through 2013-14, the gap elimination adjustment has led to a $8.5 billion reduction in state aid to schools. School districts on average have “lost” about $12.6 million each over those four years, according to the New York State School Boards Association, an education lobbying group.

Boiled down, the GEA reduces annual increases in total state aid to schools.

For the Lockport district, 2014-15 foundation aid is $31.2 million, the same as in the 2013-14 fiscal year. Other aid lines, for universal pre-K, textbooks, technology and the like, are added — and then the GEA is applied.

Once building aid is added, however, Lockport’s overall state aid package is larger in 2014-15, $37.2 million compared to $36.8 million for the current year.

According to Deborah Coder, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance, for the upcoming 2014-15 school year, Lockport’s GEA hit is about $4.2 million. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget would reduce the hit by $534,000 or 11 percent.

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