Saugerties schools hoping for more state money

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

With New York State facing a substantial budget deficit, the governor is proposing a three percent spending average increase for the school districts rather than a bump closer to four percent as originally planned.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $168-billion spending proposal for the 2018-19 fiscal year on January 16 called for a 2.3 percent growth. The governor, who had initially anticipated recommending a $1.2-billion increase in state education aid, is instead proposing a $769-million increase.

What that means for local school districts varies. Under the governor’s proposal, likely to be upped by the state legislature, the Saugerties schools would see an overall increase in state aid from $22,729,250 in the 2017-18 fiscal year to $22,802,192. In the overall scheme of things, that’s not much.


“It appears that there is an increase in foundation aid to the district, and that’s a welcome start,” said Lissa Jilek, the district’s business manager. Foundation aid, the biggest piece of the pie, would increase from $14,932,729 to $15,145,814.

Other aid increases to the district in the proposed budget include transportation (up from $2,180,608 to $2,265,343) and private excess costs (up from $907,128 to $927,264).

But there are reductions in expenditure-driven aids elsewhere. BOCES aid, set at $1,882,457 in 2017-18, would fall to $1,669,460 under the governor’s proposed budget. And the software, library and textbook line item would drop from $219,685 to $216,542.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to drill down and find out what the causes of those decreases are,” said Jilek. She acknowledged that, while the district is crunching numbers based on Cuomo’s proposal, the figures were likely to change. “Right now, this is the first of several numbers that will be released by the state,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll see the assembly and legislature numbers soon. Those tend to be higher.”

So far, Jilek added, the district was working from a better position than anticipated, especially given the uncertainty of the new federal tax code.

“We’ve been told from the get-go that there’s a $4.4-billion revenue shortfall at the state level, so to receive any increase was a complete surprise,” she said. “Usually we’re under a deficit reduction or gap elimination. We’ll see what happens. A lot of this revenue shortfall at the state level is directly tied into the federal government. The state relies heavily on New York City monies, and those bonuses were not paid in December when they traditionally are because they were unsure of the federal tax consequences.”

Change could be in the air for lawmakers across New York State and elsewhere that goes beyond the annual give-and-take between the various levels of state government at budget time. “Who knows what will happen in the next two or three months?” said Jilek. “And it’s an election year, so I’m hopefully optimistic that we will see more money.”