As they ready to reopen, school districts face cuts from state

As they ready to reopen, school districts face cuts from state

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - As the prepare to reopen, school districts across New York state are receiving less money than they counted on from state government.

State aid checks for August were only 80 percent of what school districts budgeted, and the state’s teachers union says that will apparently continue.

“In response to a projected $14.5 billion budget shortfall, school districts were notified that any funding tied to a statutory due date will be reduced by at least 20 percent,” New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) said in a statement.

“These cuts could gut programs that students depend on and result in layoffs around the state.”

In addition, school districts are worried some other state aid may not come at all.

The cuts, while unwelcome, have been in the works for months.

“It’s not welcome news, but it’s not unexpected either,” said Thomas Burns, superintendent of St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.

The Cuomo administration has warned that unless the federal government delivers billions in aid to New York state, there will have to be cuts.

“It’s survivable if its temporary,” said Sackets Harbor Central superintendent Jennifer Gaffney Wednesday, who views the 20 percent reduction - for now - as “withholding” rather than a cut.

“But if we’re looking at a 20 percent reduction for the entire year, that’s going to hurt.”

Gaffney said she had been optimistic congress would come up with another round of economic stimulus, one which would provide money for schools. But it hasn’t happened so far.

“I had this issue on the back burner of worry, and now it’s definitely on the front burner,” she told 7 News.

Burns said it’s not clear how long school districts can go on 80 percent state aid without having to either dip into savings or cut programs and staff.

“They can live with it for a little while, but they haven’t defined what a little while is for them,” Burns said.

Compounding the loss of 20 percent of funding, much higher than normal expenses because of COVID-19.

“It’s absolutely expensive,” Gaffney said. “These are costs we wouldn’t have budgeted in a normal school year.”

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