Archive for the 'Finance' Category

Looking Ahead — Schools and State Budgets

May 31st, 2017 by Robert Lowry

The Cuomo Administration’s financial plan released last week for the state budget enacted in April projects New York State will face a budget deficit of $4.02 billion and that School Aid will increase by $1.1 billion in 2018-19.

But behind these projection lies far greater uncertainty than usual.

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School vote turnout decline continues

May 23rd, 2017 by Robert Lowry

School budget votes a week ago produced a new record high approval rate – 99.3 percent, with only five school districts not gaining voter support for their proposed budgets.

New records were also set for yes vote percentage (74.5 percent) and for lowest turnout.

For the fifth year in a row, total turnout declined to a new low. Each of the last five years has also brought new record lows for both yes and no votes.

The tax cap appears to have contributed to the decline in turnout and increase in pass rates. Since the year before the tax cap took effect (i.e, since 2011), total turnout has declined by 37 percent, with yes votes down by 23 percent and no votes down by 57 percent.

The chart below the break provides year-by-year details. Read the rest of this entry »

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A summit on the mental health crisis among students

May 15th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Next weekend, the New York State School Boards Association is hosting a summit — “Your Role in Addressing the Growing Mental Health Crisis Among Students.” Our organization is one of the co-sponsors.

As I shared in our last blog post, I’ve been struck by the stories superintendents tell of the pain they see in families and communities they serve. Often those stories cite concerns about mental health. That concern has come to stand out in one of our annual surveys as well.

For six years now, the Council has surveyed school district superintendents on financial concerns. Trying to end on an “up” note, each year we have concluded by asking,

“If your district were to receive an increase in funding beyond what would be needed to fund state mandates and your current level of services, what would be your top three priorities for the use of that funding?”

In each of the last three years, “Increase counseling, social work, mental health or similar services for students” has ranked as the second leading priority, behind only “Increase extra academic help for struggling students,” which has been the top ranked priority in all six years.

We did not add the option for mental health and similar services until our third annual survey:  in the aftermath of the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut horror, it was striking how often superintendents professed concern about what had been happening to the availability of mental health services.

In fact, the vast majority of people suffering with mental illness are no more likely than the rest of the population to commit violent crime; they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

But the point stands:  superintendents were alarmed about diminishing access to mental health services for their students and families.

If anything, our survey findings suggest their alarm has grown:  the share of superintendents picking mental health, counseling and social work as one of three top funding priorities has also climbed each year, from 22 percent in 2013, to 35 percent for this school year.

Kudos to NYSSBA for arranging next weekend’s summit.

Below the break is a table summarizing the survey findings and giving some additional observations.

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Tuesday!

May 12th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Next week, voters outside the state’s “Big 5″ cities will go to the polls to pass judgment on school district budgets.

Here is an Excel spreadsheet which will produce a history of budget vote outcomes going back to 2003 for any district, including votes for and against the budgets.

Below is a chart showing statewide results over the same span (click the image to enlarge). Read the rest of this entry »

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Forces driving the need for a large School Aid increase

January 12th, 2016 by Robert Lowry

There are two groups of forces driving the need a large School Aid increase in the next state budget. One set arises from cost pressures and the property tax cap. The other arises from the challenges in producing a satisfactory aid distribution. Read the rest of this entry »

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Four Key Numbers in School Finance

November 11th, 2015 by Robert Lowry

This post offers some thoughts on “big picture” school finance considerations for next year and beyond.  It concludes with a link to some district specific data.

In presentations to superintendents and others around the state over the last few months, I’ve said that four numbers are critical to understanding school finance in New York State:

  • 2
  • 6
  • 0
  • 434

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Extending the property tax cap as is — there are better options

June 17th, 2015 by Robert Lowry

Today, the Council joined with other school and local government groups to urge the legislature to defer action on extending the property tax cap, or making it permanent.  It is not due to expire until next year.

Below are my remarks as prepared for delivery — I omitted some passages at the event.  The recommendations I refer to are those developed by the Educational Conference Board. Read the rest of this entry »

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We’re Number 1. Why?

June 2nd, 2015 by Robert Lowry

Today, the Empire Center for Public Policy reported on new Census Bureau data finding that, once again, New York leads the nation in per pupil spending on its public schools.

Seldom does anyone stop to ask why New York schools spend at the levels they do. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why we need School Aid runs

January 28th, 2015 by Robert Lowry

Yesterday, the Educational Conference Board released a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for him to release district-by-district aid estimates for the $1.1 billion School Aid increase contained in his proposed state budget.

The release has received wide media attention (see here, here, here, and here) and at least one editorial endorsement.

I have been impressed by the level of frustration expressed by school district leaders over the absence of aid estimates and have assured Capitol staff it is spontaneous, not orchestrated.

For the first time in memory, a Governor has not included specific School Aid recommendations as part of the Executive Budget. This tactic undermines both local school budget planning as well as consideration of overall aid needs.

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Category: Finance, Legislation, State Budget | 1 Comment »

More questions than answers

January 22nd, 2015 by Robert Lowry

Listening to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address and budget presentation yesterday, other Council staff members and I felt encouraged.  Perhaps the reaction was a reflection of our expectations.   But we felt he had presented ideas we could work with, if not necessarily endorse outright.

Then we read the details and were left with more questions than answers. Read the rest of this entry »

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