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General Brown launches letter writing campaign to end Gap Elimination Adjustment

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DEXTER — School officials feel it’s time to send a message to Albany that the Gap Elimination Adjustment is hurting schools. General Brown Central School will launch a letter-writing campaign to voice concerns from all around New York.

The adjustment was introduced as a one-time measure in the 2009-10 school year to help reduce the state deficit. General Brown Superintendent Cammy J. Morrison said she hopes the letter-writing campaign will end the program and return funding to local schools for the upcoming school year.

“These are programs, teachers and school staff, clubs and educational opportunities for kids,” Mrs. Morrison said. “Write to the governor and tell him to immediately remove the gap elimination adjustment from the 2014-15 budget.”

The adjustment is a reduction of state funding given to a school district, meant to help the state ease its revenue shortfall. Since it was introduced during the 2009-10 school year, Mrs. Morrison said, the GEA has reduced state funds by $6.7 million for General Brown Central School. She is encouraging people to write to officials in Albany to say what that money means to them.

She said the funding reduction has forced the district to make “deep cuts” in staffing, extracurricular activities and educational programs. Districts have been coping with the cumulative impact of four consecutive years of state aid losses. The net impact has been detrimental to students in the form of cuts in personnel, programs and services, and the depletion of district reserves.

“Write and tell them what you think,” Mrs. Morrison said. “It’s really money that’s been promised to the districts.”

Mrs. Morrison said she hopes the campaign will put changes into place to eliminate the practice for the 2014-15 school year.

Directions, including mailing addresses and sample letters, can be found in the Advocacy Toolkit on the school’s website, www.gblions.org.

“When speaking to other superintendents, they said the more letters we can send, the more our letters will make an impact,” Mrs. Morrison said. “If you don’t know what to write, you can sign one of our sample letters.”

Taxpayers, students, parents and community members are encouraged to send a letter. Working with General Brown, Mrs. Morrison said, Lyme Central School has expressed interest in joining the campaign; there is an open invitation to any other New Yorker who would like to submit a letter.

One sample letter on the site meant for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reads, “I realize that all schools are being hit by budget shortfalls due to reduction in state aid from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, and that the state government would like to have more of the burden of student education be on the shoulders of the local taxpayers. However, the cut in state aid has been too deep and too fast for districts to be able to adjust. The loss of $6.7 million over four budget cycles to a district that survives on a budget of just over $20 million is devastating. This loss has resulted in the reduction of 45 positions and the depletion of our fund balance.”

Mrs. Morrison, who started working as superintendent this year, said she was inspired to begin the letter-writing campaign after a discussion with an Albany school superintendent.

“They said we should write handwritten letters,” Mrs. Morrison said. “The more personal, the better. We need parents to write what this money means, what their kid’s hopes and dreams are and how this money supports that.”

Mrs. Morrison wrote that attention needs to be focused on Albany to support districts that are doing the right thing.

“We’re really just spreading the word right now,” Mrs. Morrison said.

People are asked to write their letter or submit a signed sample letter to the district office where the letters will be sent out. Mrs. Morrison said people can also help by donating stamps to mail the letters.

Letters can be mailed to the district office at 17643 Cemetery Road, Dexter, N.Y. 13634-0500 or dropped off in person.

For more information, call the school district office at 779-2300.

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