State lawmakers in Albany have approved a budget that boosts public education funding by $1 billion to $27.9 billion, with more than $700 million of that going to the state’s poorer school districts; however, state aid for Rome schools is expected to fall by more than $2 million in the 2019-2020 school year, according to figures from the state budget office’s website.
Albany approved the fiscal year 2020 budget this weekend, signing off of $77,196,947 in aid for Rome schools — down by 2.55 percent from last year’s $79,215,344 figure, which was a nearly $4 million gain from the 2017 state budget.
Funding for BOCES was cut from $7,969,166 to $6,887,534, while aid for buildings and building reorganization incentives fell from $11,548,640 to $7,895,970.
Foundation aids increased from $48,363,929 to $50,603,103.
In January, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s preliminary budget proposed a decreasing aid for Rome schools to $75,690,437, prompting school district officials to begin mulling possible cuts in anticipation for Albany’s final budget.
Rome Superintendent Peter C. Blake said that the state's numbers overreported the amount the district received last year for building aid by $1 million, but that that "doesn't really change anything from three months ago."
The district is still in the same position of needing to make up for a budget shortfall caused by lowered state funding — "there are no changes from January," Blake said.
School board president Paul Fitzpatrick said he was pleased that the actual aid amount was higher than expected in January, though he added that that “doesn’t alleviate the major issues” the district faces.
“I’m sure we can do something creative” to address the shortfall, he continued.
“As far as the impact (of the cuts) — that’ll take a while” to fully assess, Fitzpatrick said.
Though the budget approved by state officials this weekend does not cut funding as severely as originally proposed, Rome City School District is still facing a shortfall.
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Blake proposed a $114.67 million budget — down from the 2018-2019 budget of $117.9 million — that included a three percent spending decrease and possible reductions of about 115 staff positions to offset the reduced aid. Around 300 teachers and community members marched ahead of the meeting to protest the proposed cuts.
Among the cuts floated by Blake’s proposal were the elimination of 47 AIS (academic intervention servcies) positions ($3.29 million), nine secondary school positions ($772,800), eight elementary school positions ($640,000), seven elementary school librarians ($504,000), five instructional coaches ($304,178), three teachers on special assignment ($210,000), two positions in administration ($155,000), give teaching assistants ($152,485), two typists ($48,902), two security positions ($80,000), a nurse float position ($47,801), and a PC specialist ($45,095).
At last week’s board meeting, Blake estimated there could be about 70 layoffs including 50 teachers, under the proposal.
Proposed program cuts included all modified sports, the Forever Growing program, pre-Kindergarten for 3-year-olds, the
Hillside Work-Scholarship program, essentially all school clubs, and all field trips.
Blake also said in his presentation Thursday that district officials needed to make about $10 million in reductions from what the 2019-2020 spending plan would include if all of the current 2018-19 expenses and programs were maintained.
According to Blake’s March 7 proposed budget, the district still has about $7 million in its fund balance/savings, though Blake has cautioned against using that full amount to offset the cuts. Around $2.46 million of this is currently allocated to help balance the district’s budget.