How Hochul’s budget could affect our school districts

Senator Michelle Hinchey leads rally on Friday, March 22 opposing cuts to education funding in the Governor Hochul’s proposed FY 2025 Executive Budget for New York State.

Office of New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey

How Hochul’s budget could affect our school districts

Legislators debate cuts proposed by Hochul’s 2025 Executive Budget

KINGSTON — In the final weeks of budget negotiations, State Senator Michelle Hinchey led the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), parents and school superintendents from schools across the 41st Senate District to call for changes to Governor Kathy Hochul’s Proposed Executive Budget for 2025, which cuts last year’s state record $34.5 billion in public education funding by $419 million.

The cuts would impact all of the state’s nearly 700 school districts, say opponents of the budget; they note that the cuts to education would most heavily impact high-needs districts and small, rural areas.

The cuts are due to a change Hochul has proposed to the state Foundation Aid Formula, which, at over a decade old, is still used to determine school district funding.

Schools in the Mid-Hudson region would be hit hardest by the change, with a 4.2% decrease in total funding, a cut of over $31 million dollars.

In Hinchey’s district alone (parts of Greene, Columbia and Ulster counties as well as northern Dutchess), the cuts would total $25.7 million if the proposed budget is enacted in its current form.

State Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha of Assembly district 103, which includes Red Hook, Rhinebeck, and parts of Ulster County, partnered with Hinchey in organizing the March 22 rally.

In our schools

Robert Farrier, business administrator at the Webutuck Central School District, said that if enacted, the cuts would impact Webutuck CSD’s academic programs, though which ones and how much has not yet been determined.

Elliot Garcia, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Personnel of the Millbrook Central School District, said that the proposed state budget “has certainly influenced our budget planning for the 2024-25 school year.”

He said that Millbrook CSD had also overestimated the state funding that Millbrook CSD could expect this year (school year 2023-2024) .

“Given that fact, we must plan for the coming school year as if our state aid package will be unchanged, and could potentially be reduced,” he said. He said that the problem “is further compounded by the reality that over 60% of our budget contains expense increases which are either fixed or contractually obligated.

“With that being said, we are being very conservative with our budget projections for next school year,” he said. “We continue to fine tune the proposed budget for the 2024-25 school year to identify any and all opportunities to responsibly reduce our proposed expense budget in kind in order to maintain our existing programs.”

Dr. Brian Timm, Superintendent of the Pine Plains Central School District, said, “The proposed cuts to Foundation Aid by Governor Hochul are extremely impactful to a number of school districts across the state,” including Pine Plains CSD.

He added, “I wouldn’t say at this point that anything in the proposed budget would negatively impact student lives,” but continued, “we are making adjustments to the Pine Plains CSD budget for 2024-2025.”

Timm said that Pine Plains CSD will look at adjusting some services with BOCES and faculty and staff health insurance, but would mostly offset differences by reallocating appropriations funds — “a one time cost to the district that would present a problem moving forward,” said Timm. “It’s not sustainable.”

Legislators’ alternative

On March 14, the Senate and Assembly passed a one-house budget resolution which proposes amendments to Hochul’s proposed Executive Budget including the restoration of the “hold harmless” provision, which ensures that school districts are allocated at least as much aid as they received the previous year, regardless of declines in enrollment.

The budget resolution proposes $747 million in aid to school districts throughout the state (as opposed to the $507 million increase proposed by Hinchey’s budget).

Legislators are also requesting a review of the Foundation Aid formula.

Earlier in March, Hochul’s budget director, Blake Washington, said that a revenue consensus meeting with the State Legislature determined there is $1.3 billion in tax collections coming to the state which had not been previously allocated, which could be used to negate the changes to the Foundation Aid.

“We are hopeful that some if not all of the Foundation Aid is returned for the 2024-2025 school year and that the Foundation Aid Formula is revised,” said Timm.

The final enacted budget will evolve from negotiations between Governor Hochul and the legislative branch.

The budget deadline for New York State is April 1.

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