On Friday, April 1, New York lawmakers approved a 2016-17 state budget that includes an overall $1.5 billion – or 6.5 percent – increase in education funding. The state budget ends the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which has diverted billions of dollars from schools during the last seven years.
The Legislature’s vote on the budget came on the first day of the state’s new fiscal year. The finalized spending plan provides school districts with information about state aid revenue that is critical as they develop school budgets for the 2016-17 school year.
The bulk of the state aid increase will be split in three ways: a $627 million increase in Foundation Aid, $434 million to end the GEA and $341 million to reimburse schools for costs such as transportation, construction and BOCES services.
The budget also includes targeted funding for community school efforts in designated districts, an expansion of the statewide prekindergarten initiative for 3-year-olds and an increase in financial support for charter schools.
The Marcellus administration and Board of Education continue to develop a budget for the 2016-17 school year. Budget adoption is expected on April 18. A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for 7 p.m., Monday, May 9, in Marcellus High School auditorium. The annual budget vote is Tuesday, May 17, noon to 9 p.m., at the high school. Please check the district website and your mail for budget updates over the next two months.
GEA eliminated, Foundation Aid increased
The state instituted the GEA in 2009-10 to help address its own budget shortfalls brought on by the fiscal crisis at that time. Since then, aid has been withheld from school districts across the state. Marcellus' cumulative share of withheld aid was $9.47 million. After six years, New York State legislators have put the district back on track.
The $627 million, or 4 percent, increase in Foundation Aid – the primary source of funding for everyday school operations – is the largest since the fiscal crisis began. This is well below the New York State Board of Regents’ recommendation of a $1.3 billion Foundation Aid increase for next year. Marcellus' share of that increase is $59,104, as the intent of the Foundation Aid formula is to direct money to high-need districts.
State aid will play an important role in the years ahead due to limitations in the tax levy cap.
Additional education policies and funding in the budget
The 2016-17 state budget also includes, or in some cases does not include, several other noteworthy items related to education:
- Teacher/Principal Evaluations: The budget did not remove the requirement that, in order for schools to receive their state aid increases for this year and next, they must comply with the changes enacted last year to the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) law. APPR governs teacher and principal evaluations. Under the current law, districts must have an approved plan that meets the latest iteration of APPR regulations by Sept. 1, 2016, in order to receive state aid increases for both 2015-16 and 2016-17. Many districts are currently operating with waivers from last year’s changes and had advocated for action in the state budget to remove the possibility of losing aid due to APPR.
- Community Schools: The budget includes $175 million to help implement community schools initiatives in certain designated high-needs districts and for schools that have been identified as failing by the state. Community school efforts can include academic, health and social services for students and families. As noted above, $100 million of this funding is from an increase included in Foundation Aid for certain schools.
- Charter Schools: The state budget includes nearly $55 million in additional support for charter schools statewide through an increase of $430 per pupil to a total of $14,457. This represents growth of 3 percent in per pupil funding.
- STAR: The state budget does not cap annual growth in the School Tax Relief (STAR) program at zero percent, as proposed by the governor in January.
- Universal Prekindergarten: The budget continues an annual investment of $340 million to support prekindergarten programs across the state and calls for an expansion for 3-year-olds. As of this school year, 460 of the state’s 674 school districts offer prekindergarten slots to 120,582 children.
- Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announce agreement on 2016-2017 state budget
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Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announce agreement on 2016-17 State Budget on March 31. The state Senate and Assembly voted to approve the budget April 1. (www.governor.ny.gov/news)