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Local School Officials Take Cautious Approach to State Budget Proposal

School officials in Croton-Harmon and Hendrick Hudson are optimistic about the state aid allocations given Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s school aid proposal, but agree more needs to be done to help their school districts face their respective budget gaps.

Croton-Harmon School Superintendent Edward Fuhrman said there was nothing surprising about the approximately $4,155,647 state aid his district is allocated to receive in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Although Fuhrman said he is happy to receive the money, which represents an 8 percent increase from this year, it still doesn’t change the fact that his district is facing a budget gap of more than $800,000 heading into next year’s budget.

“We see some positives in this, but we won’t see things get better while the GAP Elimination Adjustment is still there,” Fuhrman said. “We are getting less than $10,000 in aid for general support and yet we have $800,000 missing if you take into account the GAP Elimination Adjustment.”

The GAP Elimination Adjustment is formula that was instituted in school aid to help close the state’s budget gap.

Fuhrman said his district is also waiting to see how much it can save through the governor’s pension stabilization proposal. The Governor's proposal would allow municipalities and school districts to lock into a fixed rate for pension payments during a 25 year period.

The locked in rates would be 12 percent for the state Employees’ Retirement System, 12.5 percent for the Teacher Retirement System, and 18.5 percent for the Police and Fire Retirement System. Without the option, school district and municipalities are looking at average rates of 20.9 percent for the Employee’s Retirement System, 16.5 percent for Teacher’s Retirement System, and 28.9 percent for the Police and Fire Retirement System.

But when rates drop, as expected with the creation of the Tier VI Law last year, school districts would still be locked into those rates.

 

“I think that is a conversation that we need to have with the board,” Fuhrman said. “It does have the potential of making our costs higher down the road, but we have the weight that against our ability to keep the budget reasonable.”

The Hendrick Hudson school district would receive $5,233,387 in state aid, which represents a 17.5 percent increase. Brian Monahan, interim superintendent of Hendrick Hudson schools, said he cautiously optimistic that the district will keep those budget increase when the state Legislator eventual votes on the budget.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and know better than to go on what I hear in January,” Monahan said.

As of now, the district is looking at a preliminary budget proposal that would increase this year’s $70,603,156 by about 2.6 percent next year and this year’s $40,634,693 tax levy by 1.76 percent. That budget is contingent on the district cutting three elementary school teachers.

“We hope that we can achieve that through retirements,” Monahan said.

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