Photo courtesy of Flickr

This letter to the editor was written by members of the Board of Education of the Ithaca City School District. As always, we are eager to reprint alternative or dissenting viewpoints. Please send them to jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com.

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ITHACA, N.Y — As members of the Board of Education of the Ithaca City School District (ICSD), we write to express our concerns, frustration and angst over the Governor’s proposed budget.

Four items are of particular concern to our District and taxpayers:  The Gap Elimination Adjustment(GEA), Foundation Aid, the Property Tax Cap and  Pre-K funding.

Since 2010, as a result of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, New York State has  withheld almost 21 million dollars in promised school aid from the Ithaca City School District.

Unfortunately, the governor’s proposed budget continues this destructive policy by withholding another 1.15 million dollars in school aid from ICSD for 2016-17.  In addition, in allocating foundation aid to upstate school districts, which is intended to support general operating expenses, the ICSD is projected to get zero – NO -additional funding this year.

Making matters worse the state- mandated Property Tax Cap only allows school districts to increase taxes by 2% or the cost of inflation, whichever is less. This year, inflation is almost zero.

Although some expenses are excluded from this cap, this year’s cap will be quite restrictive. Unfortunately for our district, there will be an approximately 7% increase in health insurance and a 10% increase in workers compensation. This will widen the  gap between projected revenues and projected expenditures.

Staying underneath this restrictive Property Tax Cap is extremely challenging and could have serious repercussions for our programs.

Lack of funding for the Universal Pre-K programs for our region is another significant deficiency in the governor’s proposed budget.

Our region’s four year olds are not being served by current state funding formulas. Existing funding for upstate enables some districts to convert half day Pre-K to full day.

Pioneering districts such as ICSD already have had full day programs so cannot access these funds. In fact, due to years of the GEA clawback our district has had to significantly scale back our Pre-K programs in recent years. Universal Pre-K is vital in leveling the opportunities for children from low income backgrounds. All young children deserve this opportunity.

The toxic combination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, no additional Foundation Aid,  and the Property Tax Cap pegged at close to 0%  puts our district in a serious financial predicament.

Years of continuous financial strain make for difficult choices and put our educational mission at risk. New York State has experienced budget surpluses for the past two years.

It is unethical to run a State budget surplus and simultaneously withhold needed funds from school districts.

We urge New York State to completely abolish the Gap Elimination Adjustment this year and properly fund education for the children in the Ithaca City School District and in all of New York State.
Signed,
Robert Ainslie, President
Christopher Malcolm, Vice President
Jennifer Curley
Dr. Sean Eversley Bradwell
Bradley Grainger
Eldred V. Harris
Moira Lang
Ann Reichlin
Dr. Patricia Wasyliw

Featured photo courtesy of Flickr

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.