Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...
Last month, we looked at some of the district's amazing results in academics, as presented by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum,
Instruction, and Pupil Services, Dr. Marie Perini. Now, let's explore some of the challenges we face in maintaining our status as one of Western New York's premier school districts while also being one of its most fiscally prudent. Dr. Perini is joined in this difficult balancing act by her counterpart on the financial side, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Support Services, Jamie Phillips.
Miss Phillips reports that earlier this month the New York State Assembly and Senate released their respective 2016-17 budget
proposals. Both proposals include the full elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) along with foundation aid increases. At this time it remains to be seen how school districts will fare in the final budget.
In the meantime, let's take look at these two components of school funding and their historical impact on Lancaster's budget.
In 2007-08, a new formula for education aid was enacted to equalize school funding across the state, called foundation aid. While the state promised a four-year phase-in, after only one year, foundation aid was frozen and then only slightly increased thereafter. Compared to what should have been paid to Lancaster since 2008-09 under the new formula, the district has not received more than $95 million (including
the 2016-17 governor's proposed figures for foundation aid).
Introduced for the 2010-11 school year to address the state's budget deficit, the GEA, a so-called 'temporary' reduction of aid paid to schools, will be in its seventh year, under the governor's 2016-17 proposal. Since its inception, GEA reductions for Lancaster total $27,192,270, when factoring in the governor's 2016-17 proposal for aid.
While all school districts have been operating under these constraints for several years, Lancaster has taken several proactive measures to balance our budgets and keep tax increases well within the cap, while maintaining a standard of academic excellence you have come to expect. Some of these measures include: closed Central Avenue Elementary; reduced 62 positions; wage concessions; reductions in spending on materials, supplies, and equipment; switched to a self-funded health insurance plan and increased employee health insurance contributions; and increased use of fund balance and reserves to offset expenditure increases.
We've been able to weather the storm, and will continue to be able to do so, due to community support, foresight, and sound financial planning. We strive to continue to offer the excellent programs we are known for, while fulfilling our role as one
of the largest employers in this community.
Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools