October 26, 2021

School districts seeing state aid increases

Metro Creative Graphics

At the beginning of the school year, Thomas Turck, the superintendent of the Homer Central School District, said he was worried the state would withhold 20% of the district’s school aid due to state revenue losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, now, following further rounds of federal aid in the forms of two stimulus packages, the district, and others in the greater Cortland area, won’t lose funding.

Superintendents said they were generally pleased with the $29.5 billion in school aid for the 2021-22 school year that was enacted in the state budget last week.

The aid was a $3 billion increase from the current year’s budget and includes a $1.4 billion increase in Foundation Aid.

Foundation Aid is the “unrestricted aid category supporting public school district expenditures in New York State” and includes components such as expenditure per pupil.

“I was very happy with the final budget we saw,” Turck said Tuesday.

In addition to the roughly $485,000 increase in state aid for the district from last year’s budget to this year’s, Turck said additional funding from the American Rescue Plan will help.

Money will likely be spent on areas around the social/emotional wellness of students, he said.

This may include spending more on mental health evaluations of students who may need more support because the pandemic has created a disconnect for students while learning remotely. “The social-emotional aspect of this pandemic can’t be understated,” Turck said.

“It certainly helps us to think about the next couple of years,” Cortland Superintendent Robert Edwards said. “I think all school districts are cautiously optimistic about it.”

Like Homer, school officials in Cortland were worried about losing 20% of their state aid, but were notified they were going to get all the money owed.

The district expects to get $31.82 million in state aid for the 21-22 school year, an increase of more than $2 million, state Education Department data show.

Edwards said he wasn’t sure where money might be spent, but added students would come first. Properties would also be assessed and work could be done on them as well.

At the Cincinnatus Central School District, Superintendent Todd Freeman said he was feeling good about the additional $374,000 in Foundation Aid the district is projected to receive.

As long as it is as projected, “we feel pretty good about that increase next year,” he said.

Freeman said all programs had been maintained during the pandemic last year and that this funding would likely be used to fill budget gaps, but not add programs.

As far as spending money from the American Rescue Plan, “We’re taking a look at what we can do with the learning gap” exacerbated by the pandemic and switch to remote learning, he said.