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Boost In State Aid Gives New York School Districts Much Needed Help

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - Local school districts are getting a much-needed financial boost, thanks to the recently passed New York state budget. The spending plan includes a record $29.5 billion for school aid, an 11% increase.

That includes a $1.4 billion Foundation Aid increase, a major source of funding for local districts, and a promise to make good on a 2007 deal to fully fund schools by the year 2024.

Syracuse City School District is getting an increase of $15 million over what school officials thought they were going to get.

“We are ecstatic to have the growth,” said Suzanne Slack, the district’s Chief Financial Officer. “To me, it’s really a commitment from the state to the kids in New York saying that we know this has been a really hard year and a half. We are going to put resources behind education to prop the kids back up, give them time to maneuver through these changes and then get back on track with their education.”

Slack said she hasn’t seen an increase in state aid this big in her whole tenure with the school district.

“With this increase this year, some things that we were dreaming about doing and saying, well maybe over the course of five years, we’ll phase in a little program, we actually now have the ability to dream big and to do those things immediately,” said Slack.

Don Keegan, Associate Superintendent for Business Services at the North Syracuse Central School District, said the district has been significantly underfunded in recent years due to the problems with Foundation Aid.

The district plans to see a $3.5 million boost in Foundation Aid this year, and officials were told they should be receiving the district’s full allocation in Foundation Aid within three years.

“Our teachers have been doing yeoman’s work with limited resources, and so it feels like we can finally provide the resources that are needed to our teachers, so that they can properly support our kids,” said Keegan.

Superintendent of the Liverpool Central School District Mark Potter said the district will be receiving $1.7 million more in Foundation Aid than the governor’s executive budget.  Potter said the Liverpool district alone has been shorted $60 million during the 14 years since the new Foundation Aid formula was put into place.  The district was told that it would be fully funded by 2024.

Potter said Liverpool has been relying on savings for about five years to cover known expenses, and additional financial obligations have been put on the district since the beginning of the pandemic.  Now, district officials hope that will change.

“The hope is to wean that out completely, so we’re not relying on savings to balance our budget.,” said Potter. “So, over the next three years or four years, if they continue to increase Foundation Aid, by the time we get to 2024, we’ll be creating a budget that requires no savings to be applied to balance it.”

All three districts agree that going forward, a high financial priority will be helping students deal with academic and emotional challenges related to the pandemic.