Educators concerned over state funding

Cuomo touts focus on classrooms in speech, GEA absent from remarks

— Buhner was somewhat less swayed by Cuomo’s words and pointed to the action taken, or rather not taken.

“While he speaks of education, he has not addressed the main issues that are in fact crushing public schools across the state,” Buhner said. “We need to address the GEA and how it is going to be eliminated, and at this point there is not a plan.”

Douglas said the eliminating the GEA would rightfully restore funds meant for education.

“They’re passing the state’s costs of education onto the local base, and that’s what causing some of our problems,” he said.

The GEA was meant to be a one-year initiative, Buhner said, with it known as the Deficit Reduction Assessment, but after the initial year it was renamed the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Buhner said the first year wasn’t as difficult for schools because federal funds flowed to offset some costs.

Buhner, along with other educators, contend imposing a tax cap and reducing funding cannot be done at the same time without negative results for public schools.

South Colonie and Bethlehem school districts have exceeded the tax cap once each, but neither is looking to exceed it again.

Getting district voters to approve exceeding the cap would also be tied to losing the proposed tax rebate, which would have the state refunding any tax bill increase only if a homeowner’s local government and school district stay within their limit. This year, that limit is set to be less than 2 percent.

Corr did not support tying the rebate to school district and municipalities staying within the tax cap because voters decide what school budgets will total.

“There are better ways to look at the matter of property taxes than this particular method,” Corr said.

Any school district seeking to exceed its cap already faces the extra burden of having a supermajority of voters required to approve the spending plan. Local town and village boards only need the standard vote of approval, three out of five members signing off.

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