All but one school district in Erie and Niagara counties will see an increase in state aid next year as the state budget increases aid by nearly $1 billion.
The State Senate finished passing budget bills early this morning, and the Assembly is due back in session Thursday to complete passing the state budget.
The agreement between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators allocates $21.2 billion to the state’s schools.
“The largest growth portion of our budget was in education,” said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, adding that the budget will increase aid to schools by $936 million.
As always, the amounts vary from district to district, depending on formulas and reimbursement funds, which depend on how much districts spent the previous year.
Buffalo’s aid is up 3 percent.
Sloan is one district that will get a substantial boost, 11.36 percent, much of that from an extra pot of money for districts with low wealth and high property taxes. Iroquois will see an 8.68 percent increase, Cheektowaga will go up 7.66 percent, and North Collins will get 8.43 percent more. The aid figures do not include building aid.
Niagara Falls city schools will get a 4.01 percent boost, Royalton-Hartland will go up 7.1 percent, and Newfane will receive nearly 7 percent more.
The aid does not bring districts back to the high water mark of 2008, when state aid was at its highest.
“It will take a couple years to get back up to where they were,” Ryan said.
Only East Aurora will see a drop, of 2.27 percent, because the district will not receive money it got this year for instituting full-day kindergarten.
One district in the region getting special attention is Hamburg Central, one of four districts in the state penalized because teachers and administrators could not agree on a teacher-evaluation plan. Hamburg lost about $450,000 in aid already promised the district.
The agreement restores much, though not all, of the funding lost over the teacher-evaluation plan, Ryan said. It also directs future aid formulas to be based on the total aid without reductions, so future aid will not be diminished.
“Next year’s base will be calculated as if they received the $450,000. Otherwise, they would have been behind forever,” Ryan said.
Legislators and the governor also agreed that future teacher-evaluation plans will stay in effect until new ones are approved, so funding will not be jeopardized for districts in the future.
“We made an effort to give back,” Ryan said. “We don’t want the child of that district suffering because the adults couldn’t come to an agreement.”
Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said the increase in state aid will help ensure students are well-educated and prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.
“Every student in New York State deserves access to a high-quality education, and this multimillion-dollar increase to schools in western New York will do just that,” he said.
Most school districts around the state are finalizing their budgets, which will be presented to voters in suburban districts May 21. Having a firm state aid figure, however large or small, is crucial in figuring out how much money to raise in taxes.
Much of the aid is driven by formulas, and aid for BOCES, transportation and special education is a reimbursement. The more a district spent the previous year, the more it will receive for those categories.
Despite the overall increase, school administrators are worried about long-term trends in expenses and funding for education.
A survey last year by the New York State Council of School Superintendents revealed half of New York State’s school superintendents think their districts will run out of money within four years, and 70 percent believe they will not be able to fund required programs within the same period.