Consequences of the "fiscal cliff" could hit home for local students, and students at Fredonia Central Schools are no exception.
Superintendent Paul DiFonzo told the board at a meeting on Tuesday the National School Board Association (NSBA) supports a resolution to oppose what is called sequestration in the budget control act (BCA) of 2011. The BCA is a round of automatic, broad-sweeping cuts by the government to federal programs, also known as the "fiscal cliff" of budget impacts set for Jan. 2 unless Congress takes action.
DiFonzo said the impact could be significant to FCS. "We could lose federal aid - up to $500,000 toward salaries," and other costs, DiFonzo explained.
OBSERVER Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Fredonia Superintendent Paul DiFonzo (center) explained how the “fiscal cliff” may impact FCS.
According to the resolution created by the NSBA, sequestration "would impact almost every public school system in the nation" and "would be impacted nationwide by an estimated $2.7 billion loss from just three programs alone" including Head Start and programs for disabled and disadvantaged students, which serve a total of 30.7 million children nationally.
The NSBA website states for every $1 million of federal aid a district receives, it would lose $82,000 and on average, for every 5,000 students enrolled, districts would lose about $300,000 in aid.
Over the summer, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed Congress on the possible impact of sequestration of fiscal year 2013 funds under the BCA.
Duncan told Congress the Congressional Budget Office estimated sequestration would require a 7.8 percent reduction in funding for non-defense discretionary programs which would be applied to funding available in fiscal year 2013. "This means that if sequestration occurs, states and school districts would have roughly the first half of (2013) to plan for the impact of reduced federal funding beginning in the 2013-2014 school year," Duncan stated.
However, in New York, tax cap legislation and calculations done in Albany limit how much revenue districts can raise via property taxes, so it is unclear as to how districts might work around increased deficits in federal aid. Further, reductions in state aid have also impacted schools, and DiFonzo said Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget initially suggested 3 percent of the budget may be allocated for school spending but the figure, while not final, has been lowered to 2 percent.
"As a district, it's a good idea to support this resolution," DiFonzo told the board.
A petition regarding school funding inequity was also discussed at the meeting. DiFonzo said he was contacted by Stephen Putnam, superintendent of Brasher Falls Central School, regarding a petition online to Governor Cuomo, the New York State Assembly, and the state Senate, asking to "remove the gap elimination adjustment. Remove the artificial low wealth floor in distributing foundation aid that severely penalizes the poorest districts."
DiFonzo explained inequity of aid distribution is a problem in Fredonia because, "In a place like Long Island, they might have 1 percent of their district relying on aid, but here in Fredonia, we are at 42 percent. We got that down from 52 percent."
DiFonzo said Putnam's original goal for petition signatures was 3,000 signatures, but once that number was exceeded, a new goal of 7,500 was set. DiFonzo urged board members and others to sign the petition at signon.org/sign/governor-cuomo-address.
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