New Your State School Boards Association

Survey: State aid cuts to force teacher layoffs, school closures and tax increases


Survey: State aid cuts to force teacher layoffs, school closures and tax increases

School districts will have to lay off more staff, increase class sizes, raise taxes and reduce elective courses and, in some instances, close buildings next year if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state school aid cuts are enacted, according to a New York State School Boards Association survey of public school superintendents. And that’s after they use reserve funds and remaining federal jobs money to help offset the $1.5 billion cut in state aid proposed by the governor.

“For weeks we have been hearing about what will happen and who is to blame, much of it overheated rhetoric and some of it downright misleading,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer in releasing the survey. “We felt it was time to look at the cold, hard facts – what are school leaders actually planning to do if Gov. Cuomo’s proposed aid cuts are adopted. It is grim news. But, it is something New Yorkers need to know before lawmakers and the governor complete work on a new budget. Cutting the state budget has a dramatic negative impact on local school districts.”

For example, 81 percent of the 319 superintendents who responded to the survey said they will have to lay off teachers and 82 percent will have to lay off non-teaching staff. The number of layoffs reported by the respondents was 3,290 teachers and another 2,714 non-teaching staff.

NYSSBA’s survey – to which 47 percent of the state’s 679 superintendents responded – also found that 87 percent of respondents plan to use undesignated reserve funds, and 87 percent plan on using federal Education Job Funds in their 2011-12 budgets.

Of the districts planning to tap their reserves next year, two-thirds said they plan to spend more than $500,000 in savings and about one-third said they will use more than $1 million. A separate NYSSBA analysis found that 118 districts would not have enough reserves to cover their state aid cut even when factoring their remaining EduJobs funding.

“School districts are doing what the governor has suggested. They are negotiating concessions with employees, using reserve funds and federal jobs money, and finding ways to share services and cut costs,” said Kremer. “They are also carefully managing their finances and planning long-term, so as not to drain their rainy-day funds down to zero. District leaders are making the tough budget decisions today because meeting their financial commitments is getting more difficult every year.”

To close their budget shortfalls, superintendents reported they will resort to a number of cost-saving measures, including:

  • 76 percent plan to increase class sizes
  • 72 percent plan to reduce or eliminate extracurricular activities/athletics
  • 70 percent plan to reduce elective courses
  • 59 percent plan to defer maintenance
  • 56 percent plan to reduce extra help for students
  • 49 percent plan to reduce transportation services
  • 47 percent plan to reduce or eliminate summer school
  • 8 percent plan to close one or more school buildings

Even though 57 percent of survey respondents said they plan to freeze or reduce spending, 85 percent said they will be forced to ask voters to approve a property tax increase for next year. 

“This may give fodder to those who are pushing for a property tax cap, but what the public needs to realize is that school districts are forced to bear ever-increasing costs over which they have little or no control,” Kremer said.

“The reason we see proposed growth in taxes this year is because pensions, health care, special education, energy, transportation and other main cost drivers within the school district budget are growing at an unsustainable rate,” he added. “This budget survey clearly demonstrates why addressing burdensome mandates is a critical ingredient to reducing school district costs. Schools are laying off valuable staff, closing buildings and eliminating educational opportunities for students in order to pay their bills.”

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NYSSBA’s 2011 Budget Impact Survey

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