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Thursday, April 3, 2014

False Advertising?

Despite what you read about the state increasing money through state aid to public schools, please remember that four years ago when the state faced a budget deficit they turned to school aid and introduced what they called the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GAP). Essentially, the state closed the gap in the state budget by taking away money that had been targeted to public schools in annual operating aid. In that first year Green Island lost over $500,00 in state aid. This was supposed to be a one-time only fix. Instead, 90% of the public school districts remain with lower amounts of state aid now than they had five years ago. We have already lost over $1,600,000 in state aid in the last four years because of the GAP.

We are among those school systems with less state aid than we had five years ago. So, when you read that Green Island received an increase of $143,296 in GAP restoration in budget figures announced today, it really means that instead of taking away the full $357,602 in GAP, the state is only taking away $214,307. It's not really more, it's that the state is taking away less than they originally planned.

During the 2009-10 school year we received $3,451,997 from the state. Even with what the state claims as an "increase" in funding, we are projected to receive $3,047,823 in state aid for next year. That's not an increase, that's a decrease of $404,174 compared to what we received five years ago!

Meanwhile, our budget has gone from $6,966,569 for the 2009-10 school year to $6,711,259 for the current 2013-14 school year budget. That's $255,310 less in spending compared to four years before. We have eliminated staff positions and reduced programs in response to the state cuts. Yet, the taxpayers of Green Island have seen their tax bills go UP despite school spending going DOWN - because the state aid has decreased dramatically over the same time period. The district also receives revenue from the federal government as well as PILOT payments (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) and both of these sources of funding have decreased over the years as well.

Put another way, state aid represented 50% of our budget for the 2009-10 school year and the state portion of this year's budget is only 43%. Over the same time period, the local tax levy in Green Island represented 38% of our budget for 2009-10, while the current contribution for 2013-14 is 49%. It's a reversal of financial responsibility with the state shifting the burden to the local tax payer and prompting schools to reduce staff and programs. In other words, the state is balancing their budget with pomp and glory while transferring the financial "hot potato" of funding education to the local taxpayers (in economically diverse communities that range from impoverished to very affluent), with the requirement that they remain below the artificially imposed two percent tax levy limit (a mandate that does not apply at the state level). This is a path that is destined to lead to increased disparity and inequity in opportunities for learners depending on which zip-code they live in

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