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November 18, 2017
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Stillwater News

Changes ahead for schools in adopted state budget

Updated April 4, 2014 – Aid restored in the recently adopted state budget will lessen, but not end the financial challenges for public schools. According to current state aid runs, Stillwater will see a $763,427 or 7.83 percent increase in state aid, which helps close the projected $1.5 million budget gap. Other gap-closing measures include allocating money from the district’s undesignated fund balance, eliminating one teaching position, and offering a retirement incentive, which will save the district money since new hires typically earn less than veteran staff members. The district is also estimating an increase of $65,000 from the Global Foundries PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes).

“While we are grateful for every bit of state aid we receive, the state did not replenish what was promised years ago,” said Stillwater Superintendent Stanley Maziejka. “With that said, we will continue to advocate for full restoration of GEA funds in the future, and we will work to provide a careful balance of maintaining quality programs for our students at a reasonable cost for our taxpayers in our 2014-15 budget proposal.” Learn more about the GEA

The funding challenges for schools are likely to increase with the inclusion of a so-called property tax freeze in the state budget. In the first year of the rebate program, a district must stay within its 2014-15 tax levy cap. In the second year, a district must stay within its 2015-16 tax levy cap and receive state approval for a shared-services/efficiency plan that achieves savings of 1 percent of the tax levy each year for three years.

If a district does so, homeowners who are eligible for the school tax relief program, or STAR, can receive a rebate check from the state after paying their school tax bills. At this time, it appears the rebate amount will be the greater of either a) the amount by which a new school tax bill exceeds the prior year school tax bill or b) the allowable levy growth factor (0.0146 for 2014-15) multiplied by the prior year school tax bill.

The district is now analyzing other aspects of the state budget that may impact the local education program:

  • Universal, Full-day Pre-kindergarten Funds – The budget allocates $300 million to supplement universal, full-day pre-kindergarten programs in New York City and $40 million for such programs in the rest of the state. While Stillwater currently offers a half-day universal pre-kindergarten program, the district is not slated to receive any of this funding next year.
  • Smart Schools Bond Referendum – The state will hold a public vote in November for permission to borrow $2 billion for school technology infrastructure, broadband or wireless connectivity, pre-kindergarten instructional space, and/or replacement of classroom trailers. Stillwater would receive approximately $856,000 from the bond. To receive these funds, the district would have to develop a detailed improvement plan and then put the proposal up for a local vote.
  • Student Testing Changes – The budget includes several provisions related to state assessments:
    - Individual student scores on grades 3-8 state assessments in English language arts and math:
         - Can be used in required state and federal reporting.
         - Cannot be placed on a student’s official transcript or in the student’s permanent record.
         - Cannot be the sole basis for student promotion and placement decisions.
    - The commissioner of education must create new regulations that:
         - Set restrictions on the amount of time spent on testing and the number of field tests, among other things.
         - Allow alternative assessment options for students with disabilities and English language learners.
  • Student Data Privacy Changes – Following are some of the budget provisions related to student data privacy:
    - While parents cannot opt out of having students’ data shared with the state, the transfer of such data to
       InBloom or any similar provider is prohibited.
        - Districts can opt out of using state data dashboards.
        - The state will create a chief privacy officer position and have tougher penalties for unauthorized disclosure of
          data.

Visit the district’s budget webpage for more information about the impact of the state budget on the 2014-15 school budget proposal as it becomes available. The Stillwater Board of Education is slated to adopt the 2014-15 budget proposal on Tuesday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the MS/HS Library.

Copyright 2014, Capital Region BOCES School Communications Portfolio; All rights reserved. For more information or permission to use, call 518-464-3960.

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