Environmental factors continue to place financial stress on GASD

While the Greater Amsterdam School District remains fiscally sound, outside forces such as the city’s growing poverty level and demand on school services is painting a worsen picture for future solvency.

That according the Office of the New York State Comptroller, which issued its annual “fiscal stress” monitoring report for all school districts this month using a scoring system to rate where districts stand financially now, while predicting future trends based on various environmental factors.

For the third straight year, Amsterdam Schools showed a “no designation” of financial stress from a budgetary standpoint. This means the district generates enough revenue to meet expenditures while meeting other criteria such as adequate year-end fund balances, good operating deficits/surpluses, cash position and use of short-term debt.

However, for the third straight year the district’s “environmental” stress designation by the state has worsened from a “no designation” in 2017, to “susceptible” environmental stress in 2018 to yet a higher level of “moderate” environmental stress in 2019. Only one higher level remains on the state’s fiscal stress monitoring scale – the highest designation of “significant” environmental stress.

“It’s a worrisome situation,” said GASD Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Raymond Colucciello, “especially when you consider that most of those environmental factors are out of our control.”

The environmental indicators used in the report are things that could influence revenue-raising capability and demands for school services in the future, including:

  • the percentage of disadvantaged students attending the school district
  • declining property values
  • percentage of English language learners
  • class sizes and teacher turnover rate
  • budget vote approval percentage

The school poverty rate in the GASD, for example, continues to rise from 60 percent in 2017, to 66 percent in 2018, to 73 percent in 2019. Citywide, recent reports show 25.6 percent of the population for whom poverty status is determined in Amsterdam (about 4,520 residents out of 17,600) live below the poverty line, a number that is nearly twice the national average of 13.1 percent. The largest demographic living in poverty in the city are females aged 35 – 44, followed by females aged 25 – 34 and then males aged 35 – 44.

At the same time, the GASD ELL rate has increased from 4 percent in 2017 to 6 percent in 2019, the comptroller’s office reports, and the teacher turnover rate has risen from 11 percent in 2017 to 18 percent in 2019.

The state comptroller’s office uses the fiscal stress monitoring system to examine financial information reported by school districts each year. The most recent report was for the 2018-19 school year. The analysis is meant to provide an objective assessment of the fiscal challenges facing each individual school district, identifying situations where corrective action may be needed.