Monday, April 4, 2011

Slight of Hand?

When the new State Aid figures were released last week they were not even close to what had been released by the Governor's office in November. At first sight it looked like West Genesee was going to receive an additional $2M in State Aid. The news even reported that our State Aid cut was reduced by more than 50% from the original listing.

A much closer look revealed that the Governor's State Aid run in November did not include a Federal piece called the "Jobs Money" but the new run from last week did.  The "Jobs Money" for West Genesee is close to $1.6M. Take that out of the equation and tighten up Transportation, Building, and BOCES Aid and you end up with a State Aid increase of about $580K.

I was asked over and over again if I felt that the changes in how the aid was listed was a "slight of hand" by the Governor's office. I really don't know. All I can tell you is that his first run did not include a line item that this final run did. 

It is very difficult to explain how a school district receives state aid. Generally speaking, the amount of State Aid that a school receives is dependent on the "wealth" of the district. This wealth is determined by studying the income tax receipts, property values, and the percent of students who receive free/reduced lunch. This is why you might see a neighboring school getting a higher State Aid increase or decrease than West Genesee.

Either way, the amount of State Aid that we received is not going to be enough to bring back any programs that we have scheduled to reduce or eliminate for next year. Even if we did look at bringing back anything we would just be cutting it again next year because the Governor is still focusing on a tax cap and he has already indicated that the State Aid increase for next year will be minimal. We will be using the additional aid to lower our tax levy from 4.8% to 3.8%, fulfilling some contractual obligations, and placing the remainder into our reserves to prepare for another difficult budget in 2012-2013.

I am looking forward to meeting with people to figure out how to move forward with fewer resources because I feel strongly that West Genesee can create new and better ways to do some of the things that have been done "the same way" for decades in all schools in New York State. We will be evaluating our efforts throughout the upcoming year to make sure that what services we do provide are of the highest quality.
I do appreciate your support through our wage freeze efforts, your understanding that programs and people in each area of our schools are going to have to be reduced, and that we cannot make it out of this fiscal crisis by doing what we have always been doing. 

On another note Mrs. Brown and I had the opportunity to attend the Culture Fair on Saturday. As always, what a great event! We sampled food from many different cultures, got to talk with people from around the world, and got to see several different shows performed by people representing several different cultures. I would like to thank Theresa Williams and her helpers for coordinating such a fine event. I am looking forward to next year already! To view a photo gallery of pictures from the event, click here.

It looks like I will be able to get back on schedule this coming week and get into buildings each day to see the students and staff doing their best. This time of the year and especially the budget building process makes this difficult. but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel; and it is not an oncoming train!

Have a great week-