Buffalo, NY - The late state budget is hitting harder for school districts here in Western New York and around the state as they try to prepare their spending plans for the upcoming budget votes for the public in mid-May.
2 on Your Side was in Grand Island where the School Board and administrators held their third budget briefing in preparation for a May 16th public vote on their projected $62 million dollars plus spending plan. They have been keeping a close eye on Albany as state lawmakers were still trying to figure out details on points like education aid to districts across the state.
Governor Cuomo proposed an extra one billion dollars in school funding this year, but now it's on hold. State funding makes up about a third of Grand Island 's budget with no firm numbers yet. Superintendent Brian Graham says, "The delay in Albany is very concerning for state superintendents all over the state. For Grand Island, we're confident that if we don't receive any additional funding, we may have to dip into our fund reserves to roll over our budget to next year."
West Seneca Superintendent Dr. Mark Crawford told us his district will keep programs intact for this budget, but there may be dire consequences for other districts as they also struggle. Some are especially affected without more foundation grant funding that was largely frozen during the 2008-09 economic crisis. Dr. Crawford says, "We're not talking about trimming staff in this budget just to be clear about it but others are."
There's another complicating factor in the roughly two percent property tax cap imposed by the state in 2012 to hold down the tax bill for homeowners in our high-tax state. School districts need a 60 percent voter approval to override it and most fail to do so. David Albert of the New York State School Boards Association says, "This really is the first test of you know budgeting in a tax cap era with uncertainty over your state aid."
While school districts wait for more definitive funding information from Albany with their school budget votes looming next month, the state school boards association says it has learned that two local districts, Niagara Falls and Lackawanna, may seek to exceed that property tax cap to bring in more money. Again that may be a tough assignment to get voters to agree.