To the Valley News:
Dear Elizabethtown-Lewis Central Parents:
I write to you as our School Board is in the early stages of constructing the 2014-2015 school budget – the budget you’ll vote on this coming May 20. Our school community has a history of solid support for the school budget. In recent years since at least 2008, you have overwhelmingly approved our school’s budget by 75 percent on the average. I thank you for that continued trust and support with our community’s resources in supporting teaching and learning.
My purpose in writing is to inform you of a particular challenge facing Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School this year, and for the past few years – New York’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) that is imposed upon public schools.
In order to balance the state budget, much needed financial aid was taken away from school districts, beginning in 2009 under Governor Paterson. Under that governor, a public school’s state aid was “adjusted” to help “eliminate the gap” in our state’s finances – hence the name Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). Since the GEA’s inception, school districts have lost more than $8 billion in GEA state aid cuts. Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School alone has lost close to $2.4 million in GEA to help the state fill its budget deficit.
In short, much needed financial aid has been taken away from our community’s students, and reallocated to other parts of New York State.
The cumulative impact of four consecutive years of state aid losses has resulted in cuts in personnel, programs and services. Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School has eliminated elementary teachers, high school teachers, teaching assistants, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, and administrative assistants. We have eliminated a foreign language, some art courses, some music courses, and certain high school elective courses. We have streamlined, attempted to make our operations more efficient, and we continue to share services with other districts and municipalities to cut costs as well.
Many would believe such reductions were appropriate given our decline in enrollment, but lack of funding our school’s fair share of state aid is the primary factor for such reductions to our academic program.
Governor Cuomo speaks of a “budget surplus” statewide, so it seems that now is the right time to restore aid to school districts. Indeed, the state has a legal obligation to provide a sound education for all children.
Yet, Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School is losing the highest amount of Gap Elimination Adjustment in Essex County for the coming school year - $350,000. Other neighboring school districts with similar enrollment patterns and tax rates had their GEA restored, some 35 percent and 45 percent of last year’s reduction. At Elizabethtown-Lewis Central, we are realizing only a 10 percent restoration – this is unacceptable.
Our elected officials need to hear from all residents on this issue, and I ask you to consider placing a call, emailing, or writing to our elected officials at the contact information below.
It’s my hope our collective voices will be heard, and our representatives will restore our fair share of funding, to avoid any more damaging reductions to our fine programs at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School.
Please telephone me (873-6371) with your questions, concerns, and/or feedback.
With Lion Pride-
Scott J. Osborne
Superintendent & K-12 Principal
Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School