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The two major focal points of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget address Tuesday was lowering taxes and education. He proposed $800 million in education funding as well as a $1.5 billion for a universal pre-kindergarten program.

Superintendent Chris Dailey of the Batavia City School District says Cuomo’s funding message does not match reality.

“They’re still taking $955,000 back from the district next year that we could be using to enhance education for our students,” Dailey said. “On top of that, the idea that they’re going to add all these programs and then hopefully pay for them long-term is very suspect.”

The district already offers universal pre-kindergarten. Dailey says the district is worried because if they adjust the program to meet the new proposed statewide requirements and then the governor is defeated in the upcoming election, “will that still be paid for, or will this be another unfunded mandate that the districts are left to pick up in years to come.”

Dailey says something needs to be done about the gap-elimination adjustment.

“They’re claiming that they’re giving us these huge increases, but then they’re taking part of it back,” Dailey said. “That happens to every single district.”

Dailey says the state is still not funding the district at the level over over five years ago.

“We’re still below where we were then, prior to the stock crash,” Dailey said, “They have not made us whole yet even back to 2008-2009 and yet they’re looking to add more programs and they’re claiming they can pay for it, but that still remains to be seen.”

If the budget is approved by the legislature as is, Dailey says the district would first look at its universal pre-K program to meet the state mandate. It would also affect the district’s own budget that goes to voters.

He says the local superintendents of the GLOW region are forming a coalition to meet with state representatives in March and bring attention to the challenges school districts are facing.

“The biggest thing for us is going to be to further reduce the gap elimination adjustment – money that is owned to the district by law that we need to get to keep our costs down for our public,” Dailey said. “We’re hopeful that, through our advocacy over the next few months, that we’ll be able to influence our legislators to continue to fight for our districts – and they’ve been wonderful for us – but to continue that fight to get us as much aid as possible so that it affects our taxpayers minimally.”

A state budget needs to be approved by April 1. The legislature has passed three straight on-time budgets.

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