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Schools react to proposed state funding

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 07:25:17-05

At first glance, schools across Erie County appear to be getting their fair share under the governor's proposed executive budget.

East Aurora is looking at a 3.84 percent increase in state aid. “When you compare this year's aid with last year's aid it looks like we're getting a bit of a windfall,” said Paul Blowers, who is the school business manager for the East Aurora Union Free School District.

But, for Blowers, the devil is in the details. “When you see those school aid run print outs, you've got to take them with a grain of salt and understand the numbers behind it. We're in a very difficult spot here.”

Blowers said the "Gap Elimination Adjustment" is one major concern. It was created several years ago to make up for the state's budget shortfall. It is money withheld from most districts statewide.

For the Blue Devils, this school year's G.E.A. equals roughly $460,000, and Blowers said that's not the only problem. “We're in a unique situation where we don't receive a lot of state aid in relation to other districts around the state and the tax cap prevents us from tapping into our strength which is our income property wealth.”

Some districts could fare far better. That includes Amherst which could see a close to 30 percent increase under the governor's proposal. Grand Island's looking at a 20 percent increase.

Jane Burzynski is the director for the Erie County Association of School Boards. She said it's a step in the right direction. But it's still not enough. “It's difficult to say districts need more when you have the governor proposing a billion dollar increase to give. The thing is: billions have been taken, and that's something we need to keep in perspective.”

That is taking its toll on districts like East Aurora. They've eliminated 24 teaching positions in the last few years. And more positions could be eliminated if they don't see a larger increase in aid. “That could equate to another four or five teachers and some non-teaching staff. So we're talking about programming," Blowers said.

For a complete list of all school aid runs, click here.

The Legislature still needs to pass the budget. They have until April 1 to approve an on time spending plan.