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With state school aid undecided, districts left guesstimating

File Photo / WBFO News

School districts have been left in limbo, with the passage of a New York state budget extender instead of an approved spending plan.

School boards look to the state budget process each year to see what amount of aid they will get. Once they find that out, they put together their individual budget plans, hold public hearings and then a vote in May.

Because of the budget extender, school boards still do not know what their aid will be, even though they have mandatory budget planning to do.

"As a result, they’re gonna have to guess," said David Albert, spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.

He said one option is to base their budget proposals on what Governor Cuomo proposed - $1 billion extra for schools (the legislature has asked for more). 

"That, again, is a little bit risky because it’s not a given," Albert said. Cuomo and the legislature may change their minds if there are big federal budget cuts.

However, Buffalo Assemblymember Michael Kearns said school aid is why lawmakers are working overtime on a budget agreement.

"It's very important for the school districts to know what their budgets are going to be and what money they're going to be receiving. It's very important that they know before they have to go to their voters," Kearns said. "So this is paramount. This is the first time, with the late budget, that there's a two percent tax cap. That has never happened before, so we need to get this done." 

Although he did not want to cite figures until the budget is approved, Kearns said state school aid will be higher than what the Governor proposed.

School boards have to finish their proposed budgets by April 21. Lawmakers say they are poised to approve a budget, so one may be in place before that date. The state budget extender ends on May 31.