JAMESTOWN – Officials with Jamestown Public Schools received the first piece of the puzzle for putting together next year’s 2019-20 school budget when School Superintendent Brett Apthorpe shared details of the governor’s school aid proposal with the school board.
Last week Governor Andrew Cuomo released his 2019-20 executive budget and proposed boosting school aid by 3.6 percent, with a focus on “education equity” — ensuring that enough state financial aid goes to the right schools. However, According to Apthorpe, the amount of money the governor is proposing for the economically depressed Jamestown school district is woefully inadequate.
“These aid formulas and budgets are intentionally wrapped in mind-boggling rationale that is purposefully confusing. So the governor – his recommended budget – is a 1.4 percent increase in foundation aid for our school district. When applying the logic of [Consumer Price Index] or inflation, this represents a decrease,” Apthorpe said.
According to a handout provided during Tuesday’s board meeting, the governor is proposing $49.8 million in general purpose aid for Jamestown Public Schools next year – up just $711,000 from the current year’s school budget. The budget also includes a $2.1 million increase in Expense-Based Aid – but much of that is tied to restricted spending like building and infrastructure improvements.
Apthorpe said it’s difficult not be angry when you consider the challenges the district faces.
“It’s hard not to get angry in 2019 because education has come so far in the last 20 years. We know how to teach children to read and write. We know how to teach ALL children to read and write. We know the science and it doesn’t happen through osmosis. It happens through skilled, quality professionals like literacy specialists. When considering 1.4 percent – a decrease to a district that has 70 percent of its children living in poverty – it’s hard not to be angry,” Apthorpe said.
While the governor’s budget doesn’t provide nearly as much aid as the school district had hoped, there is the possibility the final number will be higher once the state legislature approves a final spending plan within the next couple months.
For now, Jamestown and other school districts at least have a starting point for their school budgets and Jamestown School Board President Paul Abbott says it’s now time to get to work, even though it’s off to a challenging start.
“It’s disappointment. When you look at cost of living increases, and expenses are always going up, this doesn’t really keep pace with where we’re at right now. And with the Small Cities Schools lawsuit setback, the budget is always a continuing struggle. And with the state, so much of it is always politics,” Abbot noted. “So we’re going to see what the legislature will do with the governor’s budget. We will construct, as we always do, based on what the governor is telling us, and we’ll hope for more.”
The Jamestown School Board will begin the 2019-20 budget process next month. It will have until mid April to finalize a spending plan that will be put before residents for a vote. The state budget, meanwhile, is due to be completed by the end of March.
We’ll have more on the state budget’s impact on the school district, as well as other other challenges facing the district and what’s being done to address them, when we talk with Apthorpe this week on our Community Matters program – airing at 5 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 24), 2 p.m. Friday (Jan. 25) and Noon Sunday (Jan. 27).