POTSDAM - St. Lawrence Countys school superintendents have seen state aid projections, and say unless the state Legislature comes through with significantly more aid the 2014 budget-crafting season is not going to be easy.
Although the state provided 3.8 percent more for public schools in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomos executive budget proposal, the average increase for St. Lawrence County schools was 2.7 percent, said Thomas R. Burns, St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services superintendent.
Also, the state continues to impose costly mandates and reduce funding through its Gap Elimination Adjustment, he said.
This is the same old system and it appears to be as unfair as ever, Mr. Burns said. Its not unexpected, but its disappointing.
The Ogdensburg City School District will receive a $284,831, or 1.3 percent, increase in aid next year.
Ogdensburg Board of Education President Ronald N. Johnson said Wednesday he was shocked at the governors state aid proposal.
Its certainly not enough to run our business, Mr. Johnson said. We are an impoverished district. We have cut our budget right to the bone. We have laid off nearly 60 employees over the last five years.
Like other districts, Ogdensburg has been dipping into its fund balance to offset increased costs.
Our fund balance has been cut below what we should have cut it, and weve cut from every department we could already, he said. We are at our wits end.
He said the district will send letters to Albany and state representatives before the budget is passed.
But those in the past have brought us very little return, he said.
Potsdam Central School Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said his districts 1.97 percent aid increase wont cover what is going to be an estimated $300,000 increase in insurance premiums alone for next year.
We are very disappointed, Mr. Brady said. We had hoped for more.
Educators now have to hope that state lawmakers restore more funding to public schools, particularly this year when the state has a budget surplus instead of a deficit.
Mr. Brady said what makes the situation worse is the fact that this years 2 percent tax cap is actually a 1.46 percent tax cap. He said when tax cap legislation was passed the cap was established as 2 percent or the consumer price index, whichever was lower.
We will now need to implore our legislators for assistance in building a more supportive and realistic state budget schools, he said. For the potential alternative is more lost opportunity for students and reduced employment in our communities.
Mr. Brady said the districts 1.97 percent proposed increase actually translates to $221,600, but of that 40 percent is categorical aids that the district wont actually receive unless it spends money first and is reimbursed for things like textbooks and transportation.
The Massena Central School District, under Gov. Cuomos proposal, would see a 2.62 percent, or $582,494 increase, in 2014-15.
But Interim Superintendent William W. Crist the state needs to look at its foundation aid formula and get rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.
I know theres been progress to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment, but its still not enough. The fact is, we havent fixed foundation aid and we havent eliminated the Gap Elimination Adjustment yet, Mr. Crist said.
Mr. Crist said he and other superintendents are hopeful the numbers will increase by the time the final budget is approved.
Canton Central School Superintendent William A. Gregory said the district will face a roughly $1.38 million shortfall in next years budget based on the new state aid figures. Most of the extra state revenue is for building aid rather than for operational expenses.
The district expects an estimated $274,000 more in operational aid, but most of that has to be used for specific categories, he said.
Thats not sufficient enough to meet our known costs going forward, Mr. Gregory said. We have to continue our own analysis and see what happens at the state level.
Staff writers Bob Beckstead, Susan Mende and Amanda Purcell contributed to this report.