By Krystle S. Morey and Matthew Saari

New York State increased education aid for the next fiscal year by $1.1 billion, and local school districts are pleased with the news.
Statewide education funding, $25.8 billion, makes up nearly 16 percent of the state’s total budget. Gov. Cuomo struck a deal with legislators earlier this month to pass the $163 billion fiscal plan.
“The FY 2018 budget continues the progress made to strengthen educational outcomes and increase access to high-quality learning across New York State,” Cuomo said in a press release.
Under Gov. Cuomo, education aid has increased by $6.2 billion, or 32 percent, over six years, according to the release. The state touts its education investment as the largest in New York State history.
Locally, Granville is projected to receive $18,089,423 in state aid – up $577,181 from the previous year.
With that increase, Granville will be adding a faculty position and purchasing three buses, additions that business manager Cathy Somich says are relatively minor. The most important aspect of this influx of state aid is what it means for local taxpayers.
“This is the second consecutive year we haven’t raised the tax levy,” Somich said.
Hartford’s state aid is set to increase $286,668 to $7,286,476.
Andrew Cook, Hartford’s school superintendent, described the import of state aid bluntly.
“State aid’s our lifeblood,” Cook said. “Our district is very heavily reliant on state aid – 63 percent of our budget is from state aid. The increase is certainly helpful.”
Despite the boost, Cook said there are flaws in the formulations the state uses to calculate how much aid a district receives and because of the flaws Hartford hasn’t received as much aid as other districts.
“The formula that goes into foundation aid pigeon-holes districts into certain tiers,” said Cook. “We’re not planning any new initiatives at this point, just maintaining what we have.”
In Whitehall, state aid will increase to $9,719,943 – up $379,460.
Patrick Dee, Whitehall’s school superintendent, echoed Cook’s sentiments regarding the flaws inherent in the state formulations.
“The money that’s owed to school districts is based on formulas…if you look at how the state of New York manipulates the formulas…many of us in Washington county are underfunded,” Dee said.
Although dissatisfied with state formulations, Dee said he was pleased with the increase, which will allow Whitehall to make aggressive changes to its curriculum and staffing next year.
Following the success of having a curriculum coordinator in the elementary school, Whitehall will add one to the high school as well.
Additionally, high school principal Jeff Keller is working with SUNY Albany to add collegiate-level courses, including U.S. military history, statistics and psychology.
State education aid awarded to the 11 districts in Washington County will increase $3,620,742 to $114,223,328. Hudson Falls is set to receive the most state aid in the county: $29,963,668.
The funds are earmarked for various budget lines, including BOCES, universal pre-kindergarten, special services, textbooks and transportation.
The biggest bump in funds for each district was in foundation aid, which is based on each district’s need to have the funding necessary to provide students an adequate education.
Granville saw a $396,676 jump in foundation aid from 2016-17 to 2017-18. It is slated to receive $12,237,774.
Hartford is set to receive $4,734,267 – up $126,259 from the previous year.
Whitehall is projected to see a $239,481 jump, bringing its foundation aid up to $7,388,181.
Districts in Washington County will comprehensively receive $77,925,654 in foundation aid this upcoming school year, which is up $2,412,676 from 2016-17. The district that will see the most foundation aid in Washington County is Hudson Falls – $19,077,020.
Total foundation aid, which is included in the state’s $25.8 billion education budget, increased $700 million statewide.
After the governor’s budget was passed earlier this month, the New York State School Boards Association said:
“While the $700 million increase in foundation aid falls short of our $1.4 billion request, this additional funding will be distributed in a way that drives more resources toward districts with enrollment growth, higher levels of poverty and a greater number of English language learners, as NYSSBA recommended.”
NYSSBA thanked lawmakers “for taking action to ensure that schools know their state aid allotment before they put their 2017-18 budgets up to voters in May.”
It continued: “Without a state spending plan in place, school boards would have had no choice but to guess how much state aid they would receive next year – a risky budgeting strategy when the education of New York’s 2.6 million public school students is at stake.”
“Schools can rest a little easier today knowing what their state aid allocation will be for the 2017-18 school year,” the statement read.

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