State aid up for schools

Published Apr 11, 2018 at 4:00pm

School districts in Oneida County each received more total state financial aid in the 2018-19 state budget that was approved over the weekend compared to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal in January.

In the Clinton school district, the total state aid amount of $11,371,560 was up about $89,000 from Cuomo’s proposal.

The Clinton district overall will receive a 1.9 percent increase in total aid compared to what was in the 2017-18 state budget.

For the Westmoreland school district, meanwhile, its total state aid amount of $11,754,076 was up about $188,000 from Cuomo’s proposal. The district’s overall aid increase compared to its 2017-18 allotment totaled 3.05 percent.

The state aid results for districts in the county drew a positive reaction from Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-119, Utica, a member of the Assembly education committee. But he said he voted against a provision that will require school districts to provide information on how they allocate funding to schools. The Rome and Utica districts initially would be affected by it locally, he added.

Overall, Brindisi was “happy with where we ended up with education aid...especially in light of the fact that the state was facing a deficit this year.” He was “pleased that our area schools saw increases in their Foundation Aid....My hope is given these increases, we will help prevent any layoffs or cuts in programming.”

Brindisi is “still talking to area superintendents to determine the outcome for each district.” The New Hartford and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill districts saw decreases in their total state aid compared to 2017-18, but when aid for construction-related projects for school buildings is excluded from their totals, their aid reflects increases.

The aid totals can “get convoluted when you add building aid and other reimbursable amounts,” Brindisi remarked.

Regarding the new requirement for district information on how they allocate funding to schools, Brindisi said he voted against it because “I had concerns about a new mandate for districts and a potential loss of funding if they’re not in compliance.”

Brindisi said he will “be talking to our local superintendents to learn more about the ramifications” including for Rome and Utica. They are immediately subject to the requirement based on districts’ sizes and amounts of aid, he noted, adding that other districts gradually will be included.

The statewide Alliance for Quality Education called the requirement “an unprecedented power grab over local school budgets by the governor.” The provision allows Cuomo to “define criteria for how school districts set their budgets and then to refuse to provide the school funding increases voted by the Legislature if his office does not approve these local school budgets,” said Jasmine Gripper, legislative director for alliance. Gripper added that “no governor has ever attempted to exert so much control over local schools.”