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March 6, 2014

School officials renew criticism of Gap Elimination Adjustment

By Meghan McCaffrey Contributing Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — With the state projecting a surplus, local school officials are joining a growing protest against Gap Elimination Adjustment.

The GEA was initially introduced as a temporary way to cut funding and reduce the $10 billion NYS budget deficit in 2010. Cuomo said in January of this year, that the state could accumulate a $500 million budget surplus for this coming year if lawmakers control spending increases to two percent.

“The Governor said that next year there will be a surplus in the budget,” said Tim Ryan, the superintendent of the Cherry Valley-School District. “Wouldn’t it make sense for the GEA to go away?”

For the next fiscal year, beginning April 1, Cuomo proposed a 3.8 percent increase in aid for schools, to $21.9 billion. This slight increase is not enough for local school districts, the officials said.

Robert Miller, the superintendent in the Herkimer School District and former superintendent of Cherry Valley-Springfield, said this lack of funding especially effects high-needs districts, such as CV-S.

“State aid is higher in poorer districts,” Miller said. “The poorer communities are much more dependent on state aid.”

State aid is higher in districts that do not have as much money coming in through taxes, Miller said.

Ryan said CV-S has lost nearly 2.2 million dollars since 2010.

“That has hurt us considerably. In a small district that’s a considerable amount of money that we haven’t had,” Ryan said. “We’ve had to try to make up for it in other areas.

“We had to cut staff positions,” Ryan continued. “We’re down to bare bones now.”

Miller said he had to reduce his instructional and support staff in CV-S by 10 percent in 2010.

“We had to change the ways that we delivered services which caused a cultural shift,” Miller said.

“It’s almost like the Governor is saying ‘we have to make sure our students are college and career ready with the Common Core, but I’m not going to pay for it,’” Miller said.

The Milford Board of Education unanimously agreed to sign a letter asking New York to do away with the GEA at the board’s Feb. 26 meeting. The letter is based on one that has also been signed by BOEs in Roxbury and Margaretville. 

Milford Central School has lost $1.7 million in the past four years said Superintendent Peter Livshin.

Livshin said if the GEA were revoked for this upcoming budget year that would mean an additional $125,000 for the Milford School District.

Livshin said in the past four years they have cut some staff members and offer incentives to get teachers to retire early.

“We’ve probably lost three to four teachers and we’ve also gone without replacing teachers who retired,” Livshin said.

The school administrators said they hope the GEA problem will soon disappear.

“We’re hoping that the state does away with the GEA because that would be a big help,” Ryan said.

“The GEA absolutely has to go away and the state has to realize the way that state aid is distributed is no longer fair nor equitable,” Livshin said. “It’s not fair. It’s political.”

“Districts in our area haven’t received the right amount of aid for decades,” Livshin continued.

Until the GEA is revoked, districts are continuing to tighten their budgets and save money wherever they can.

“We’re putting things under a microscope to see how we can be the most efficient and effective,” Ryan said.

In Herkimer County, several schools are holding a Fight For Our Valley Schools tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Herkimer College’s Robert McLaughlin College Center. Herkimer, Poland and Frankfort-Schuyler were among the schools encouraging parents and community members to attend.