School districts across New York state are in the midst of their budget process right now, with many facing dwindling state aid and more state mandates. A weekend legislative conference in Syracuse focused on the story that doesn't seem to change.
Educator Rick Timbs lobbies on behalf of hundreds of New York state school districts in Albany. In the last few years, he has argued that state funds have been withheld ever since a 2007-2008 new foundation aid formula, while simultaneously the state has required districts to do more things.
"The state is actually balancing its budget by withholding funds from us. So while state officials can say 'look, we have not increased taxes', what they do is by withholding funds but not changing our mission, but increasing our mission, forcing our costs to escalate, and therefore we must go to the taxpayers, or cut programs, use fund balance or cut staff," said Timbs.
He says this has forced school districts across the state to use over a billion dollars in savings and cut 35,000 teachers as well as programs and coursework. He believes lawmakers need to create a long range plan to fund schools.
Timbs says he is hoping to hear from Albany in this budget cycle three things -- the end of gap elimination adjustment cuts, redirected competitive grant money, and mandate relief.
Timbs spoke at the annual Central New York School Boards Association Legislative Breakfast this weekend.