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March 20, 2014

CCS joins outcry against the GEA

Cooperstown Crier

---- — Cooperstown Central School has joined other local schools is calling for the elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. 

The CCS Board of Education voted unanimously on March 5 to call for the state to eliminate the GEA.

CCS has lost $3,313,424 in state aid since the GEA was introduced in the 2010-2011 budget year.

The New York legislature originally introduced the measure, sometimes referred to as a “take back” because it reduces previously promised aid, to close a $10-billion-budget deficit. School officials have admitted that they were never happy about the plan, however as the state’s budget gap has closed and with rumors of a surplus growing, school boards and officials have become more vocal.

“This governor (Andrew Cuomo) came in and said we have a $10-billion-budget gap. People understand that,” CCS Superintendent C.J. Hebert said. “But with certain messages from Albany saying that there is going to be a surplus, if not this year, then in 2016 or 2017, it appears there is going to be money in the coffers.

“I know there are going to be a lot of people wanting some of that money,” he continued, “but it makes little sense (to spend it elsewhere) when the state hasn’t sufficiently funded schools.”

Hebert said that Cooperstown eliminated several staff and teaching positions the past four years, and will continued to have to eliminate staff and programs if the GEA continues.

“People have gotten a little frustrated with it,” he said. “It feels like we are constantly beating our heads against a wall.”

Milford Central School passed a similar resolution on Feb. 27. Cherry Valley-Springfield Superintendent Tim Ryan has also been critical of the GEA.

The CCS resolution stated that the school’s state aid is less now than it was in 2008-2009. At the same time school aid has been reduced, the legislature has also passed a property tax cap, leaving schools with little choice but to cut staff and reduce services. In addition, pension and health-care costs have risen and schools are dealing with a mandated implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards.

“We’re left in the unfortunate position of making significant cuts into valuable programs,” Hebert said.