Representing the entire Bayport-Blue Point school community, Board President Rebecca Campbell, trustee James March, BOE student representative Ryan Ball, and PTA Council President Andrea Sanseviro, traveled to Albany yesterday to advocate for the district’s fair share of state aid and to fight for the repeal of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (the “GEA”).
The group had 9 meetings over the course of the day, with local assemblymen Garbarino and Graf, with Senators Zeldin, Boyle, and Flanagan, with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office, with Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos’s office, and with Governor Cuomo’s Assistant Secretary of Education. The purpose of these meetings was to let lawmakers in Albany know how insufficient state funding is affecting us in Bayport-Blue Point.
Formerly known as the Deficit Reduction Assessment, the GEA’s original purpose was to reduce state support to public schools in order to close the state’s $10 billion budget deficit. Over the past five years, the GEA has reduced BBP’s state aid by $9.2 million, $1.8M in this year alone if nothing changes. Over the past five years, BBP’s total state aid has increased by only $77,000, or 0.49%. At the same time, expenditures over which the district has no control have increased exponentially. For example, over the past 5 years, pension expenses and health insurance alone have increased by $5.1 million, or 36%. BBP Board President, Rebecca Campbell, describes what is at stake:
“We went to Albany yesterday because it is our responsibility as district leaders to protect BBP’s financial stability. Education cannot happen at the highest level when our students, our staff, and our administration are distracted by the yearly threat of programs and jobs disappearing due to inadequate state aid.
We told our lawmakers that the current approach to state aid would not allow us to sustain BBP operations over the long run. BBP revenue is constricted because we are committed to the 2% tax cap and state aid (our only other source of revenue) has been flat for 5 years. On the cost side, BBP is subject to a web of state laws that make cost control extremely difficult, although we strive to make headway. In addition, BBP costs ballooned this year due to Albany initiatives like the Common Core and APPR, both of which have required new and unprecedented expenditures.
We told our lawmakers that we support them, but that if they truly support education the way to make that clear at this point is with money -- money to do the very things Albany is asking us to do and that we are ready to do, namely to make sure that we have a guaranteed and viable K-12 curriculum, taught by trained and well-supported teachers, so that each of our students graduates college and career ready. I am happy to report that each lawmaker we contacted made time for us and really listened. Now, we’ll see what they are able to do. “
Today and tomorrow are the last days that BBP residents can make a difference in the debate that is happening right now up in Albany over education spending. As the district takes a proactive stance on this issue, residents are urged to join the cause by writing to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to help resolve these major issues and adopt a budget by the March 31 deadline. For information about how these issues are affecting BBP click here.
Contact information for these individuals is located below. Residents can also take a stand on this matter by completing the action form located on the New York State Council of School Superintendents website, http://capwiz.com/nyscoss/issues/alert/?alertid=63158461.
NYS Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Emails can be sent through: http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php
Senator John J. Flanagan
Email address: email@example.com
Senator Dean G. Skelos
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (516) 766-8383
Phone: (518) 455-3171
Senator Lee M. Zeldin
Email address: email@example.com
District Office - Ronkonkoma
District Office – Hauppauge
Assemblymember Andrew R. Garbarino
Email address: GarbarinoA@assembly.state.ny.us