As school reopens, C-R braces for state aid cuts

As school reopens, C-R braces for state aid cuts
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As Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School prepares to welcome back students on Monday, Sept. 14, the district also is bracing for catastrophic cuts in funding from the state that could lead to layoffs, the elimination of programs, and a shift to all remote learning. 

C-R stands to lose more than $4.1 million, or the equivalent of about 50 full-time positions, as a result of state-aid reductions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout. 

The district, along with other districts of the Capital Region BOCES, are pleading with our elected representatives to support stimulus funds for New York State in a Coronavirus relief package that so far has languished in Congress. Without federal money, school districts will be forced to make drastic reductions to staff and programming.

"If our state aid is reduced by $4 million, there's simply no way we can continue to ensure the safety of our students and staff on campus and fully implement our reopening plan," said Carl J. Mummenthey, C-R’s superintendent of schools. "Today, we're prepared to do so -- but we need funding to sustain that work into the new school year."

For school districts like C-R, most funding comes from payments made by taxpayers and money from the state, commonly referred to as “state aid.”

Over the summer, districts had been expecting to receive the final installments of state-aid payments from the 2019-20 school year. However, facing a massive budget deficit due to the pandemic, the state has withheld 20 percent of those payments. The state also has indicated that it will similarly withhold 20 percent of all aid payments for the 2020-21 school year.

It remains to be seen whether the “withholdings” will eventually be paid or become permanent cuts, adding a layer of uncertainty to the start of an already unprecedented school year. Without federal stimulus money, it is all but certain that schools will face deep cuts.

To reduce expenses and limit the burden on taxpayers in the face of the state-aid reductions, C-R would be forced to make dramatic reductions to its programming. Potential cuts would include: 

  • Cuts to academic programs
  • Loss of non-mandated courses and electives
  •  Elimination of extracurricular activities
  •  Layoffs of staff and teachers
  •  Shift to all-remote instruction 

In the spring, Governor Andrew Cuomo had cautioned that aid payments might be reduced because of the state budget shortfall, and C-R had stood ready to make possible mid-year cuts. However, the size and scope of the withholdings are far greater than expected.  

"While we strategically planned for a modest reduction in our foundation aid, we never were advised to contemplate reductions to our other aid categories, including BOCES, transportation, special education, UPK, and even school meals reimbursements," Mummenthey said.

The withholdings also come at a time during which the district is incurring significant costs to both ensure students can return to school safely and support those who chose to learn remotely. New expenses include staffing, transportation, personal protective equipment, technology, and disinfection/cleaning.

"These costs are absolutely necessary to ensure our students and staff are welcomed daily into safe schools," Mummenthey said. "But they are costs nonetheless, and they come at a time when our state revenues are so uncertain."

COVID-19 is a national crisis that has touched every state, with devastating consequences both to public health and local economies. School districts are imploring the federal government to support states like New York to help sustain UPK-12 education during these challenging times. 

“It is imperative that all of us write, call or email Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Delgado,” said Bruce Tryon, C-R’s Board of Education president. “Demand that they end the infighting, and instead agree on legislation that allows school districts like ours to avoid financial disaster.

“Make no mistake: Without the aid money from the state, the district will be forced to reduce expenses in ways that will be extraordinarily painful. In fact, the cuts to staff and programs would be unprecedented in district history.”

Please call or write our elected leaders and tell them: We need federal stimulus money for New York in the next Coronavirus relief package.    

Congressman Antonio Delgado

Email

202-225-5614

Senator Chuck Schumer

Email 518-431-4070

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Email

518-431-0120