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ELCS faces budget, GEA woes

Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School

Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School Photo by Keith Lobdell.

ELIZABETHTOWN — Renting out classrooms to private businesses? Sharing superintendents? It’s more likely than you think, said Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School superintendent Scott Osborne at a public forum on Monday, March 17 to discuss the future of the district.

Like other districts in the North Country, ELCS is tightening their belts — and they’re nearing the last notch.

As the particulars of the 2014-15 school budget start to come into focus, Osborne and the board have arrived at a tentative number at what it will cost to run the school next year, about $7.7 million.

“Half of our budget is state aid and the other half comes from property taxes,” he said.

State aid is projected to make up about $3.47 million for the upcoming year and $3.5 million will come from the property tax levy.

This means a shortage of $363,363 that has to come from somewhere.

GEA

In the past, this shortfall was fleshed out by state aid, something has been slashed for the past half-decade by something called the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a device designed in 2010 to help the state eliminate a $10 billion deficit.

Every year, the state includes the GEA in the budget and pairs it with increasing mandates, said Osborne. And each year, educators lobby state representatives to end it — or at least hack it away.

Osborne said he’s “confident” he’ll know prior to the next board meeting on Tuesday, March 25 what the state, which is in the end game of finalizing their budget, decides.

“Removing additional state aid from public schools is troublesome,” he said. “If this holds true, our district will have lost $2.4 million since the GEA was introduced in 2010.

Additional stressors on districts, he said, include a rise in health insurance premiums, growing energy costs and the property tax cap, which currently sits at 1.46 percent due to a low CPI.

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Sarah_Fink 7 months ago

I would like to reach out to the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School community as a member of an advocacy group that we have started after facing similar circumstances in Minerva. Our group is called Minerva CARES - Calling on Albany to Restore Equity for our School. We have started a website (found at www.minervacares.org) that we hope is a user-friendly way to educate people about the result of Gap Elimination on our school budgets. This is a North Country issue and one that is set to have grave impacts on our region if we do not work together to raise awareness both in our own communities and with the State. We would love to network with anyone from ELCS to promote advocacy, and urge everyone to visit our website, sign our petition (https://www.change.org/organizations/minerva_cares), and find us on Facebook/Twitter @minervacares.

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