No surprise, but it still hurts

Schools once again face sizable state aid reduction

Schools locally and across the state are digesting figures in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget, released Tuesday, Feb. 1, and most are reluctantly drafting plans to dismiss employees in the coming year.

Cuomo's proposal calls for a $1.5 billion, or 7.3 percent, reduction in state aid to school districts (bringing such aid to a $19.4 billion item, or 29 percent of the state budget). If his figures are adopted by the legislature and there is at least tacit support for his proposal from many lawmakers it will the the third year running schools have seen aid fall.

Since the culling would be weighted by need, suburban schools here in the Capital District would all see more than a 7.3 percent reduction. In the Bethlehem Central School District, aid would decrease by about $2.7 million, or around 10 percent. That's close to what administrators expected.

"It was probably wise for us to prepare a worst case scenario," said Superintendent Michael Tebbano of the district's ongoing budget discussions. "We're going to be losing more personnel."

At a budget forum in late January, Tebbano said the district could stand to cut 20 teachers and a number of other staff and still fall well short of closing a $5 million gap.

Similarly, Guilderland Central School District Superintendent Marie Wiles expects to be putting a seriously reduced spending plan to the school board in coming weeks. There, the proposed aid cut is $2.1 million, or about 9 percent, which when coupled with increased expenses (salaries and benefits) makes for a $4.2 million gap on an $82 million budget.

"We anticipated something pretty close to this," Wiles said. "There is no way to make up that difference without reducing our employee basewe can't get $4.2 million out of materials, supplies and field trips."

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