Budget deal eliminates GEA; other aid for schools unclear

Suburban school districts will benefit from the full restoration of budget claw-backs used to cover

Suburban school districts will benefit from the full restoration of budget claw-backs used to cover state deficits in past years, but it remained unclear late Thursday night how much districts would receive in other aid.

As lawmakers continued to debate budget bills, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a budget deal that included a 6.5 percent increase in state aid to public schools — $24.8 billion total — including $434 million to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment, GEA, this budget year and a $627 million increase in foundation aid.

But as of 11:15 p.m., district-by-district state aid breakdowns still weren’t available to all lawmakers.

The full restoration of GEA, budget cuts linked to the economic downturn of the past decade, primarily benefits more suburban districts — like Niskayuna, Schalmont, Mohonasen and Scotia-Glenville — which rely less on foundation aid than poorer districts.

For Niskayuna schools, the GEA restoration means over $1.6 million more in the budget the board is set to approve in April for a May vote by taxpayers. The district has already considered a “modest” 3 percent budget increase, which stays under the district’s 0.41 percent tax levy increase limit and was based on the assumption that it would receive all of its GEA dollars.

Scotia-Glenville schools will receive nearly $700,000 in GEA funds; Schalmont gets over $735,000; and Mohonasen can expect over $660,000 more from the GEA restoration.

In Saratoga County, all districts combined will get just over $10 million back from the GEA restoration. Saratoga and Shenendehowa schools will each get over $2 million more in their budgets thanks to the GEA restoration.

But the GEA restoration — which was a top priority for Senate Republicans and widely-supported across both parties — does little for urban districts like Schenectady, Amsterdam and Albany.

Schenectady had just $23,954 in outstanding GEA cuts; Amsterdam gest just $8,722 from GEA. The districts rely much more on foundation aid, the core form of state education aid. But the distribution of the $627 million foundation aid increase was still unclear as Thursday night neared its end.

Lawmakers also agreed to $175 million in funding to help the state’s “struggling” school transition to community schools, Cuomo said. That money is targeted for districts with schools on the state receivership list. Both Schenectady and Amsterdam have at least one “struggling school.”

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

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