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March 21, 2013

Local schools to fight for equity

Cooperstown and Milford central schools seem to be on the same page — putting focus on advocating for the abolishment of the gap elimination adjustment.

The GEA is a reduction in school aid by the state to reduce the state deficit. CCS’ state aid has been reduced by nearly $4 million in the past four years. MCS is facing a GEA of $464,000.

MCS Superintendent Peter Livshin said his school is in a “whole lot of trouble,” and believes rural and small city schools have been short-changed for years on state aid. He said money continues to flow to rich districts down state and in Long Island.

“We need to put an end to being treated like poor step-children, and encourage our representatives to fight for us,” he said.

The “Budget for our Future: A Community Forum,” at CCS last week focused on resource sharing and advocacy — particularly for the elimination of the GEA.

“We believe this would do the most good for us,” CCS Superintendent C.J. Hebert said.

Hebert said advocacy was a topic during the budget work session because the goal was to narrow the focus on what is most important.

“We feel we will get further if we narrow down what we are lobbying for rather than advocating for a whole bunch of items,” he said.

Cooperstown plans to keep the district’s tax levy just below the state’s 2 percent tax cap. The plan calls for a 2.02 percent budget-to-budget increase and a tax levy increase of 2 percent.

Milford is anticipating having to increase its tax levy to the maximum of its cap threshold, which would mean a 3.8 percent levy increase. According to Livshin, the district found itself in the hole by more than $450,000 at the beginning of the budget process. Livshin said he has informed two teachers, two licensed teacher aids and seven aids that their positions will need to be cut.

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