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Changes ahead for schools, GCSD receives additional aid in adopted state budget

April 2, 2014—Aid restored in the recently adopted state budget will lessen, but not end the financial challenges for public schools. In 2014-15, Guilderland Central School District will regain $519,708 of $3.6 million in state aid lost to the gap elimination adjustment and see an additional increase of approximately $191,000 in Foundation Aid. The New York state budget also includes funding to launch new education initiatives, a rebate program for eligible taxpayers and some changes related to student data and testing.

On March 31, the Senate and Assembly passed a 2014-15 budget that reduces the gap elimination adjustment, or GEA, to $1.0367 billion in state aid withheld from schools and that increases aid for everyday school operations by almost $251 million. Guilderland will see a $1,039,171 or 4.9 percent increase in overall state aid compared to the current school year.

However, due to the recent realignment of BOCES special education tuition rates and an increase in the district’s need for special education services, nearly all of the additional state aid restored as part of the state budget adoption will be allocated to address these expenses.

“While we are thankful to have some these additional funds, the district’s proposed budget will not change significantly since we need to address these costs,” said Superintendent of School Dr. Marie Wiles.

Had Guilderland not received additional money from the state, district leaders would have needed to identify nearly $500,000 in reductions beyond what has already been proposed in order to balance the budget in light of the unanticipated special education cost increases.

“In that sense, we are very fortunate,” added Wiles.

The funding challenges for schools are likely to increase with the inclusion of a so-called property tax freeze in the state budget. In the first year of the rebate program, a district must stay within its 2014-15 tax levy cap. In the second year, a district must stay within its 2015-16 tax levy cap and receive state approval for a shared-services/efficiency plan that achieves savings of 1 percent of the tax levy each year for three years.

If a district does so, homeowners who are eligible for the school tax relief program, or STAR, can receive a rebate check from the state after paying their school tax bills. At this time, it appears the rebate amount will be the greater of either a) the amount by which a new school tax bill exceeds the prior year school tax bill or b) the allowable levy growth factor (0.0146 for 2014-15) multiplied by the prior year school tax bill.

For example, using the allowable levy growth factor model, a Guilderland homeowner with a $4,777 school tax bill in 2013-14 (based on the average home assessment of $246,500 in the Town of Guilderland with the Basic STAR exemption) would receive a $70 rebate from the state next fall. However, individual school tax bills and rebates in 2014-15 may vary depending on a variety of factors still to be determined.

The district is now analyzing other aspects of the state budget that may impact the local education program:

Universal, Full-day Pre-kindergarten Funds – The budget allocates $300 million to supplement universal, full-day pre-kindergarten programs in New York City and $40 million for such programs in the rest of the state. GCSD does not currently offer pre-kindergarten, so it is unlikely to benefit from this funding next year.

Smart Schools Bond Referendum – The state will hold a public vote in November for permission to borrow $2 billion for school technology infrastructure, broadband or wireless connectivity, pre-kindergarten instructional space, and/or replacement of classroom trailers. If approved by voters in November, Guilderland would be eligible to apply for up to $2,096,732 million from the bond.

Student Testing Changes – The budget includes several provisions related to state assessments:
    o Individual student scores on grades 3-8 state assessments in English language arts and math:
            -- Can be used in required state and federal reporting.
            -- Cannot be placed on a student’s official transcript or in the student’s permanent record.
            -- Cannot be the sole basis for student promotion and placement decisions.

    o The commissioner of education must create new regulations that:
            -- Set restrictions on the amount of time spent on testing and the number of field tests, among other things.
            -- Allow alternative assessment options for students with disabilities and English language learners.

Student Data Privacy Changes – Following are some of the budget provisions related to student data privacy:
    o While parents cannot opt out of having students’ data shared with the state, the transfer of such data to InBloom or any similar provider is prohibited.
    o Districts can opt out of using state data dashboards.
    o The state will create a chief privacy officer position and have tougher penalties for unauthorized disclosure of data.


Visit Education Speaks to learn more about the 2014-15 state budget.

Visit the district’s School Budget News home page for more information about the 2014-15 GCSD school budget proposal.


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