State Funding, Policy Proposals Challenge Queensbury Budget
Feb. 22, 2018
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo's school funding and policy proposals could present a significant financial challenge for Queensbury schools. That was the message delivered during a budget presentation shared at the Queensbury Board of Education meeting on Monday, Feb. 12.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Scott Whittemore spoke with the Board of Education about several state proposals, including for the distribution of Foundation Aid. Foundation Aid is the primary source of funding for everyday school operations, and it was originally intended to ensure more aid equity among schools. In reality, the state has never fully phased in its Foundation Aid Formula, leaving Queensbury schools underfunded by a total of $35.7 million over the past decade.
"Because they eliminated the phase in, the money that should have gone to Queensbury based on our enrollment and our poverty levels went to different school districts," said Whittemore.
He explained that because the formula is not running as intended, some districts are actually overfunded while others, like Queensbury, are underfunded.
"The overall income wealth and property wealth in Queensbury have maintained relative stability over the last six years, but what we've seen is this really large increase in our free- and reduced-price lunch population. We have this subset of poverty within our district that was not there before."
Under the governor's proposal, Queensbury Union Free School District would see an increase in its Foundation Aid of about $315,000 or 2.1 percent, but the district's total state aid would decrease by $1.3 million. The decrease is largely due to a reduction in building aid reimbursements following the end of the infrastructure capital project work.
District officials anticipated that loss and are preparing for it, but a proposal from the governor to cap the increase in expense-based aids such as building aid would be "devestating to Queensbury if they actually happened."
The governor's proposal would cap statewide growth in building aid at a 2 percent increase, beginning with payments in 2019-20. For capital projects already approved or in progress -- the Legacy 2020 capital project, for example -- reducing the state’s responsibility for building aid reimbursements would shift a great and unexpected financial burden to local taxpayers. Original financial projections would become inaccurate, and the true local cost of a capital project would become unpredictable.
"In the middle of a capital project, the money that we budgeted for and counted on in terms of building aid has the potential to be materially reduced," said Whittemore.
District leaders are advocating with legislators to prevent this proposal from becoming a reality. Whittemore shared that they also are continuing to advocate for other priorities such as funding and adjusting the Foundation Aid Formula.
The next Board of Education budget workshop is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. in the District Office Conference Room, 429 Aviation Rd.