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MCSBA Meets with State Officials about Foundation Aid, Tax Caps in Albany

Members of the Monroe County School Board Association are on the road to Albany Monday morning to discuss legislative priorities for the coming year with state officials.

The association plans on discussing a number of issues including state mandates, undoing legislation that ties teacher evaluations with state test scores, the shortage of English language learning teachers and special education.

But at the top of their list is foundation aid, the set amount of funding that districts get from the state, and the amount that they can fundraise, or the tax caps.

Sherry Johnson, Executive Director of the Monroe County School Board Association says these tax cap numbers have hovered around 1% across the county in the last few years.

"The fact that that is very low and that foundation aid has not been able to run as it was designed, has created an issue for our districts in terms of being able to fund the programs that our communities expect for the high quality of schools that we have."

The foundation aid formula was frozen and school aid was further reduced by the Gap Elimination Adjustment during the recession.With tax caps being so low, this creates a gap in funds that schools are figuring out how to fill. Johnson attempted to break down the process.

"Think of it as a circle graph, as a pie chart. And you think of that tax cap being the amount of money you can raise. And then state aid being another slice of that pie. And then your reserves, which aren’t big. If you don’t get the state aid, and you can’t raise the revenue, what is that big piece being filled in by? If it can’t be filled in by reserves, then the only way you can do it is to shrink your pie."

The other issue is consistency. The formulas that create these numbers often change. Tax cap numbers aren’t reached until January, while schools have to vote on and adopt budgets by May the year before.

Johnson says the meetings are something they do every year to cultivate a proactive and positive line of communication with the state, and they hope to reach and agree on a foundation aid formula that is stable, equitable and predictable so districts can long term plan better.