Before they RAISE school taxes AGAIN 9.2% ,Start cuting
the WAY OVER PAID TEACHERS PAY ! Their's plenty of People
in WNY Looking for a teacher's job !
At Monday evening’s Lancaster school board meeting, the public was made aware that with the placement of the Lancaster Central School District (LCSD) on the New York State’s Contract for Excellence list, taxpayers could be seeing a budget proposal with a 9.29% tax increase this coming year.
t only 25% of the allotted $2.3 state aid can be used to reduce taxes. The remaining $1.8 million must be used for new programs to attempt to improve special education student’s academic performance (K-12) on state assessment exams.
School Board minutes on C4E
Superintendent Edward Myszka spoke on the 2003 –2004 Regents competency exams. Lancaster didn’t have seven of the scheduled 60+ special education students present for the state assessment exam and therefore did not meet the state’s 95% participation rate requirement.
As a result of the Governor’s recent budget, Lancaster was earmarked to again participate in the C4E program. Unfairly, because the District did meet the two years of required Annual Yearly Progress in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years that should have given reason for them being removed the list.
“Our taxpayers will be penalized. $1.9 million of the $2.3 million in State aid will have to be spent on new programs,” declared Myszka. “Only $500,000 can be spent on lowering the tax rate.”
Myszka made it clear that the brunt of spending on any existing programs, utility costs, salary increases, etc. would be borne by the taxpayers. “If we had any flexibility, we would take a million dollars and use that for tax reduction.”
55 school districts will continue to be listed on the C4E program. The Governor’s original budget had language in it that would have excluded Lancaster from the C4E for the upcoming school year.
Myska declared that school officials have met with Assemblyman Hoyt locally and in Albany and have lobbied with state Legislators Volker, Stachowski, Gabryszak, Hoyt and Schimminger.
“Although the State Legislature says this is good for you because the $2.3 million is exempt from the contingency budget, we want Lancaster off this list to give us flexibility so we can use some of the $1.7 million for tax relief.”
School Board president Ken Graber interjected, “We don’t want to come to the public with something that’s ridiculous. If we have to spend money on something that is necessary, that’s one thing. What we are talking about is unnecessary (spending). Our students have not been shortchanged.
“We want the public to look into this – how the grant money is being mandated. Information is on the web site. Contact your state legislators.”
Vice president Marie MacKay asked Myszka, “If our budget is voted down this year, and we went to a contingency budge, how would this impact that?
That question received no answer, but Myszka did state that the budget had to be pared down from a “bottom up wish list” $2.13 (per thousand) tax increase budget to hopefully somewhere between 60-70 cents per thousand of assessed property valuation.
“We would be voting on very little of the budget because other items are excluded from the cap. We can’t use 75% of the $2.3 million aid for tax relief
Seventy-five percent of the foundation aid would be mandated for new programs; across the board, but the vast majority for special education and more staff.
Who funds those programs if they are continued? Why, we taxpayers do!
Michael Vallely, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Pupil Services added that after the special education population (K-12) needs are met, the money is then spent on:
Class size reduction
High school and middle school restructuring
Full day Kindergarten and universal Pre-K
Board member Joseph Maciejewski commented, “Right now our class sizes are manageable based on the buildings and how they are now occupied and our census prediction (small increase in enrollment). New programs and increased classroom needs may adversely impact our present situation.
Richard D’Arcy, Director of Finance and Support declared that the school district added 6 reading teachers last year and other programs because of C4E. Across the board we average about 19 students per class. He also noted that the district could not use any of the $1.8 million for building addition.
“We feel we have taken the necessary steps to meet the SRAP requirements considering participation rates, while at the same time further adding programs that enhanced our performance rating. There is no reason why the Lancaster Central School District should find its name on the C4E list.
What is C4E?
Following the 2004-05 school year, Lancaster High School was labeled a “School Requiring Academic Progress” (SRAP) because the participation rate on the ELA and Math Regents Exams was below the 95% participation rate requirement. Seven of the 60+ special education students scheduled to take the examinations decided there was no need to take the exams. They had their diplomas.
The school district reacted to the SRAP ruling by ensuring that enough students sat in for future exams while at the time spending mandated foundation aid on programs to improve special education student’s academic performance (K-12) in preparation for state assessment exams.
It was understood that Lancaster would remain on the SRAP list until two consecutive years of “Annual Yearly Progress” was attained in all subgroups and at all grade levels. Such progress was achieved by the Lancaster Central School District in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.
Seventy-five percent of the state aid funds provided for the aforementioned programs and added staff were mandated by state legislation of the Contract for Education program.
Meeting two years of “Annual Yearly Progress” requirements, LCSD expected to be off the SRP list by July 2007. However, in April 2007, Governor Elliot Spitzer passed a budget that included record increases in dollars for education and C4E.
Forced to select a manageable number of school districts for C4E, the State Education Department (SED) selected the C4E districts using two criteria:
1) Districts in New York State that received over a 10% increase in foundation aid
2) School districts that also had a School Requiring Academic Progress (SRAP)
Approximately 57 school districts were identified as C4E districts. LCSD was not removed from the SRAP list in July 07 as it was supposed to and was placed on its third year of required improvement status and submitted a C4E in July 07, complete with expenditure of $1.9 million.
On January 30, 2008, the governor’s proposal would have excluded Lancaster and other school districts from similar situations.
On February 19, 2008 changes / deletions to the governors C4E language now includes Lancaster and the other seven districts mentioned because of participation issues that occurred three years ago.
Because of the constraining nature of the C4E dollars, that other non-C4E districts are not accountable to, LCSD is facing a 9.29 percent tax increase (a certain budget defeat by the voters) and an even higher tax increase next year.
According to estimated preliminary budget reports, if LCSD was not a C4E district, they would still be able to increase programs and be able to potentially have voters pass a 4.1 percent tax increase.
If the governors proposal remains as is and LCSD remains a C4E district, they make it known that they will be forced to cut educational programs and staff, certainly not the intent of C4E legislation.
For every $100,000 spent in the budget, that equates to a 4.4 cent tax increase on every thousand dollars of assessed property valuation.
As the “wish list” budget stands now, the $84,291,695 budget would increase spending by $7.9 million, 10.4 percent. School officials make it known in no uncertain terms that the $84.3 million budget number is only that, a “wish list”.
Lancaster’s Suggestions to Resolve the C4E Issues
1) The governor consider reverting back to the language of his January 30, 2008 proposal which would have excluded LCSD and other school districts that were wrongly targeted a C4E districts.
2) The governor consider excluding those seven school districts that are designated C4E districts because of participation rate problems as opposed to student performance issues
3) That the governor consider increasing the percentage of the 2008-09 foundation aid that can be used to support 2007-08 programs from 255 to 75%.
The Lancaster Central School District has been unfairly targeted by not being removed from the School Requiring Academic Progress list and placed on the Contract for Education list for two more years.
LCSD has contacted the media, State Legislators, State Education Department administrators, etc. They rightfully need public support in their endeavor to right this wrong.
The state has earmarked the $1.8 million for spending on new programs and added school staffing, directives that cumulatively over the years adversely and significantly impact future budgets when the seed money is not there.
The C4E program’s continuance is not only ill-conceived, it is not necessary, especially considering the performance ranking of LCSD and at a time when property owners need tax relief.
It behooves us taxpayers to also contact our state legislators and make our voices heard. Above all else, we are the ones being most adversely impacted.
Dennis H. Gabryszak
Senator Dale M. Volker
William T. Stachowski
Mark J. F. Schroeder