The Sewanhaka Central High School District sent a letter to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to release state aid runs for local schools to help ongoing budget processes. Sewanhaka is operating on last year’s $29.25 million in aid to plan for its tentative 2015-16 $177.98 million budget.
Cuomo proposed boosting education spending by 5 percent if legislators change teacher evaluation rules to put more emphasis on standardized test results. But if they don’t, Cuomo is offering a measly one percent. Detractors argue Cuomo has withheld projections as a negotiating ploy.
“The idea of holding school aid hostage to a political agenda is so abhorrent; it’s below Albany,” School District Board President Dave Fowler said. “It’s very disturbing that we are in effect, budgeting blind. We have no indication what funds are going to be available.”
The school district’s 2015-16 draft budget is a 1.5 percent budget-to-budget increase from 2014-15. The tax levy amounts to $135.91 million, a 1.88 percent uptick.
“I have never done a budget without state aid factored in before…never,” District Superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie said. “It’s quite a concern to me, particularly some of the tactics being used in withholding that state aid number.”
The proposed budget is a departure from previous ones, which saw teacher reductions and program modifications. Next year, Ferrie doesn’t anticipate excessing teachers and all programs are secure, according to the proposed budget.
He also stated a reduction in teacher and early retirement systems are planned. Sewanhaka plans to expand the adult education program, the talented and gifted program for seventh graders and rewritten science, social studies and English curriculum for the grade.
“Everyone was on pins and needles last spring time and over the summer,” Ferrie said. “We were able to, what we believe, not have to do that this year.”
Salaries saw a 2.9 percent increase to $98.9 million in 2015-16, while employee benefits saw a 3.5 percent dip to $45.14 million.
In 2013-14, the district lost 17.6 teaching positions, five clerks and a modified English Language Arts Program. Last year, district security centralized overnight, weekend and holiday security while reducing software and school supply costs.