GASD reviews Governor’s proposed education budget for 2021-22 – budget boosted by federal aid

Funding levels could change based on future federal actions

In mid-January, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a fiscal year 2022 state budget that includes a more than $2 billion increase in funding for schools next year that is dependent on federal stimulus aid now being proposed under the Biden administration.

School aid for next year will ultimately be shaped by the prospects of additional federal funding and Gov. Cuomo’s budget negotiations with the state Legislature ahead of the April 1 deadline for a new state budget. The release of the Governor’s budget is the starting point for that process.
With the Governor’s spending plan, the Division of Budget released the “School Aid Runs,” a breakdown of how much funding each district might expect to receive based on Cuomo’s proposal.

Based on those aid runs, the Greater Amsterdam School District would receive an increase of about $4.6 million in total aid from the 2020-21 school year to the 2021-22 academic year.

Amsterdam is slated to receive $54,882,269 of total aid in the current academic year. That number is slated to increase to $59,485,578 for 2021-22. GASD’s preliminary 2021-22 total aid figure represents an 8.38 percent increase from 2020-21. Most of that increase is slated to come from increases in federal funding through COVID-19 stimulus.

GASD Business Manager Colleen DiCaprio, who provided a preliminary overview of the Governor’s budget proposal to the Board of Education on Jan. 20, cautioning against the perception that the district’s $4.6 million increase in estimated total aid for the 2021-22 school year is a “windfall.” DiCaprio said the primary source for the increase in funding comes from one-time federal coronavirus stimulus money that will likely need to be spread out over the coming years as the state battles projected budget deficits.

Though DiCaprio said she’s certainly appreciative of the one-time federal money, she cautioned GASD taxpayers about considering the sum a cure-all for the district.

“It’s one-time revenue,” DiCaprio told the Amsterdam Recorder newspaper. “So, what are we going to do in the next couple years” (as the state’s economy recover from the pandemic)?

After examining the numbers based on the typical state aid that GASD usually receives, DiCaprio said that the actual increase — not accounting for stimulus money — is more in the ballpark of $1.2 million, or a 2.48 percent increase from the 2020-21 aid run. That increase essentially mirrors the district’s annual budget increase due to increased salaries and benefits based on contractual obligations as well as other fixed costs.

And while the one-time federal stimulus money is helpful, GASD’s foundation aid, however, is estimated to remain static at $32,540,980 for the second straight year at 2019-20 school year levels.

To watch DiCaprio’s Jan. 20 presentation to the school board, visit the GASD YouTube channel and scroll to the 55:00 minute time segment of the recorded video below:

More on the Governor’s state budget proposal

Although federal aid makes up a significantly smaller portion of school funding in New York than state aid and local taxes, federal dollars play a significant role in Gov. Cuomo’s budget plan for next year.

Facing a looming state deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor proposes to cut the state’s aid to schools by $1.35 billion, through what he is calling a “Local District Funding Adjustment.” These cuts would be more than offset by the $3.85 billion in federal funding allocated to schools through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law in December 2020.

Driven by this federal aid, overall school funding in the plan outlined by the Governor would go from $29.6 billion in the current year to $31.7 billion in 2021-22, an increase of 7.1 percent.

The Governor’s budget proposal was based on New York receiving an additional $6 billion from Washington in a future relief package from Congress and the Biden administration. However, Gov. Cuomo said that he believes that New York is entitled to $15 billion in additional federal support and he has requested that amount.

The Governor said that if the full amount he is seeking comes through, schools may see additional funding beyond what outlined last week.

The Governor has proposed freezing the level of Foundation Aid, the largest state school aid category, for a second year in a row. While federal funding is helping to offset the impact of this and other measures in Gov. Cuomo’s budget for now, districts could face the potential for significant budget gaps in future years if federal aid expires and the state does not have new funding to replace it with.

Proposal to Consolidate Expense-Based Reimbursements for Schools

Gov. Cuomo is also proposing to consolidate current categories of school aid into a block grant known as “Services Aid” and to eliminate future growth in these aids. The 11 categories, known as expense-based aids, provide schools with reimbursements in specific areas such as BOCES services and student transportation.

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to restructure the way this aid is distributed includes a proposed decrease of approximately $400 million compared to the current levels of aid in the 11 categories.

Similar proposals have not been approved in the past, with education advocates and others arguing that expense-based aids are critical to sustaining programs that meet a wide range of student needs every day.

Additional Proposals Related to Education in the Governor’s Budget

Other proposals related to education in the Governor’s plan include:

  • Allowing schools to receive transportation aid for expenses incurred last spring for delivering meals and instructional materials to students during the school shutdown.
  • Continued funding for initiatives such as prekindergarten, after-school programs, early college high schools, P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools), community schools and the Smart Schools Bond Act.
  • Elimination of a variety of teacher training and support programs to focus available funding on direct service for students, according to the Division of Budget.
  • Elimination of $18.7 million in school district aid claims from prior years. This means schools would not receive money previously owed to them.
  • Actions designed to streamline the administration of the STAR program, as well as a measure that would require Basic STAR exemption recipients who become eligible for Enhanced STAR to enroll in the Enhanced STAR tax credit (instead of the exemption program).