Garden City Public Schools Question of the Week
In alignment with the Board of Education’s Legislative Affairs Committee’s goal of enhancing communication with the community, Garden City Public Schools has continued its “Question of the Week” feature. If you have a question you’d like answered about public or board policy, school district operations, or budget preparation and voting, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Politics and school financing seem to go hand-in-hand. What are the top things to watch for coming out of Albany that could impact Garden City Public Schools? How about out of Washington?
A: The largest concern coming from decisions made in Albany that affect public school districts is the state aid number included in the Governor’s Executive Budget. The final budget, which was delayed by more than a week (due date was April 1st), does include a $1.1 billion increase (more than 6%) in school aid. However, after all the numbers are added up for Garden City Public Schools, “We saw a decrease of $18,136 in state aid over 2016-2017,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance Dana DiCapua. Although state aid to Garden City is relatively small, it still represents about 5% of the budget. “In 2016-2017, we received $5,996,309; for 2017-2018, we will receive $5,978,173. The decrease is primarily due to a decrease in building aid.”
It was hoped that the adopted budget would also include significant mandate relief, especially for a high achieving school district like Garden City, but that was not the case.
At the request of NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, the “Super LAC” (the Legislative Affairs Committee of Garden City, Manhasset and North Shore school districts) researched mandates that originate solely from the Education Department and made several recommendations for modifications to ease the real and “opportunity” costs (mandates that require compliance using personnel time and district equipment, such as data reporting). The Super LAC hopes to hear a response from the Commissioner and the Education Department in the near future.
In the current tax cap environment, maintaining the excellence of Garden City’s nationally- and state-ranked educational program has become increasingly difficult. The tax cap restricts growth by two percent or the CPI, whichever is lower, while costs keep increasing, especially regional costs, for which the tax cap formula makes no allowance. “If something gets added to the school district budget on the expenditure side, something else must come out; it’s a zero-sum game,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen.
While maintaining the district’s Maximum Allowable Tax Levy of 1.35%, the proposed 2017-2018 budget of $1,769,682 has changed slightly over the course of the Board of Education’s budget review process. The change reflects including a new capital project: ADA – accessible bathrooms at the high school. Because funding for this project is the result of savings realized from previous projects that were used to increase the appropriated fund balance for the coming school year, the change has no impact on the tax levy.
In terms of federal education initiatives coming out of Washington, D.C. that may affect Garden City Public Schools, this is still unknown. The new Education Secretary is a strong supporter of school choice and could spearhead change that would impact all public school districts, nationwide. Until new federal legislation is proposed or amendments proposed to current policy, it may be too early to tell.
Please remember – even though Garden City Public Schools has proposed a budget that stays within the tax cap for the sixth year in a row since the cap’s implementation, registered voters still must vote on May 16th, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Garden City High School. If you are not sure if you are registered, please check our website under “Budget Information,” “Voter Information” sidebar on the district website: www.gardencity. k12.ny.us.