Approved State Budget Gives South Colonie Slight Increase in Foundation Aid, Enacts Permanent Property Tax Levy Limit

New York lawmakers have approved a state budget for 2019-20 that increases education funding by just over $1 billion and makes permanent the state’s property tax levy limit law, or tax cap.

The newly approved $175 billion state budget calls for total education spending of $27.9 billion, which represents an increase of 3.8 percent compared to the current year. School districts have been awaiting a finalized state budget agreement, which provides information about state aid levels for school district operating budgets, so that they can propose their own spending plans for the coming year.

The state aid increase includes $618 million in overall additional Foundation Aid and $342 million more in reimbursements for such designated expenses as transportation, construction and BOCES services. Foundation Aid and expense-based reimbursements are districts’ primary sources of state funding for everyday school operations.

For South Colonie, the governor had proposed in his executive budget in January a $40,608 or 0.25 or a quarter of one percent) increase in Foundation Aid for 2019-20 over the current school year. The legislative budget slightly adds to that Foundation Aid total for our district, increasing to $121,826 or 0.75 percent more than in the current school year.

The remainder of the increases in state aid in the legislative budget — about $50 million — will go toward a variety of targeted initiatives and grants, including Pre-Kindergarten and after-school programming.

The final state budget did not include a consolidation of expense-based aids and reduced building aid reimbursements, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo put forward in his executive budget proposal released in January. It also did not include the Governor’s proposed Equity Funding Formula, which would have directed portions of state aid to specific school buildings. Districts must instead file a report by Sept. 1 on how they will address identified inequities between school buildings within a school district.

Total school aid is higher than what Cuomo initially proposed, but falls short of the $2.1 billion the Board of Regents and the $2.2 billion the Educational Conference Board (ECB) had identified as necessary for schools in 2019-20. The ECB is comprised of the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, New York State Council of School Superintendents, New York State PTA, New York State School Boards Association, New York State United Teachers and the School Administrators Association of New York State.

Other measures in the approved budget include:

  • Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Reserve Funds: School districts can now create a reserve fund to mitigate future TRS rate spikes.
  • Dual Enrollment Classes: Community colleges and high schools will be allowed  to provide dual enrollment programs that enable students to receive college credit at little or no cost.
  • Transportation: School districts will be allowed to share routes for contracted pupil transportation services.
  • Salary Cap: The salary cap for BOCES district superintendent salaries was increased.
  • STAR Changes: Those whose household income falls between $250,000 to $500,000 will be required to pay their full property tax bill first before receiving a check for the STAR property tax rebate program.
  • Free lunch: Reduced-price lunches will be made free for students.
  • Building Condition Surveys: Building condition surveys may now be staggered over 5 years, beginning in January 2020. Currently, all districts throughout the state complete building condition surveys on the same five-year cycle. This change is designed to ease the wait times for state approval of school capital projects.

Property tax levy limit law to become permanent

The state budget includes a provision to make the existing property tax levy limit law, also known as the tax cap, permanent. The law, which was set to expire next year, does not limit the amount of money a district can raise through the tax levy. Instead, it sets a threshold at which districts are required to obtain a higher level of community support for budget authorization.

Funding for targeted education initiatives in state budget

The following are additional highlights of the $27.9 billion education spending plan included in the newly enacted state budget:

  • Community Schools: The Foundation Aid increase includes a $50 million set-aside for community schools, resulting in $250 million total for a range of programs and services in schools designated as struggling or in other high-need districts.
  • Pre-Kindergarten: The budget includes $15 million to serve more of the state’s three- and four-year-old children in pre-kindergarten programs.
  • After-school programs: A $10 million increase from the current year will help fund after-school programs.
  • Teacher Resource and Computer Training Centers: The budget adds $14 million to existing funding for Teacher Resource and Computer Training Centers.
  • My Brother’s Keeper: The program that supports initiatives to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color is slated for $18 million in new funding.
  • Bilingual education grants: The budget includes $18.5 million in bilingual education grants and $770,000 for training programs for teachers in bilingual/multilingual education.
  • Master Teacher Program: The budget adds $1.5 million to fund an additional cohort of master teachers in schools with high rates of teacher turnover or inexperience.
  • We Teach NY Program: The budget provides $3 million to recruit and prepare a corps of 250 teacher candidates who are of color and would work in high-need subject areas.
  • Expands access to advanced coursework: $5.8 million will subsidize the cost of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams for students in poverty. The budget also includes $1.5 million to create advanced courses in school districts where there are few or no advanced courses.