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State spending plan good, bad news for local schools

JOHNSBURG - With the state passage of a budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, local school administrators and board of education members now have some hard numbers to work with as they rush to create their school budgets.

After much worry, the current state legislative budget restores Gov. David Paterson's proposed aid cuts to public school districts.

In an effort to combat a $17 billion deficit, Paterson proposed slashing state aid to public school districts across the board, but the current state legislative budget restores the aid to the 2008-2009 levels.

However - even with the inclusion of federal stimulus funds - with ever-rising operational costs and the loss of the traditional 3 percent annual aid increase - program cuts may be required or the shortfall may fall to the local tax-base.

"No decisions have been made yet - we are just beginning to digest all of the information," said Johnsburg Central School Business Administrator Kathy Springs.

Johnsburg was slated to lose $202,000 in state aid under the governor's plan, but the money has been restored by the state assembly. Last year JCS received approximately $3.2 million in total state aid, comprising nearly one-third of the district's overall $9.98 million budget, Springs said.

In addition, JCS will receive $72,000 in federal stimulus money for the coming budgetary year, Springs said.

Although local schools will be receiving the same amount as fiscal year 2008-2009, an inherent shortfall is present, officials said.

"Funding is staying flat from last year, which is never a good thing," said Minerva and Newcomb Central School's Business Administrator Nancy O'Brien. "When aid is flat and expenses are on the rise we have a real problem."

Minerva Central had a $5.2 million budget last year, $1.3 million of which came directly from the state.

Newcomb will receive $541,126 in state aid and an additional $9,550 in federal money, according to the state Department of Education.

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