To the Editor,
While the state’s property tax cap is causing many school districts in New York State to exhaust their fund balances, an obscure, eleventh hour law passed by the Paterson Administration threatens to dismantle their educational programs. Former Governor David Paterson introduced the Gap Elimination Adjustment Law in 2009-2010, which was intended to be a “temporary solution” to decrease the state deficit. It essentially divided the state’s budget shortfall among all school districts by reducing the amount of state aid promised to each district.
The Gap Elimination Adjustment Law has in effect shifted the responsibility of paying down the state debt from politicians to students. For example, since the Law was passed, the East Ramapo School District has lost an astounding $41 million in state aid. Clarkstown this year will use over 11 million dollars in surplus funds to keep its programs afloat, while Ramapo Central has eliminated sixty staff members and a multitude of programs to cover their ten million dollar budget gap. Throughout Rockland County local School Boards have been tapping into their district fund balance and reserve funds, eliminating staff, reducing academic programs, extracurricular activities, reducing all non-mandated curricula, foregoing school repairs etc. With no end in sight for the Gap Elimination Adjustment Law, schools will continue to pay the state’s ongoing deficit, until they become insolvent.
Deliberately shifting the burden and acrimony of taxation from the state to the local level is an ongoing political tactic; which is self-serving, unethical and immoral. While taxpayers at the local level battle each other over fiscal woes, the real culprits of the fiscal mess watch from the sidelines in Albany. For those of you who still think that New York State is “out of money,” a $350 tax rebate check will be mailed to one million New York families just three weeks before Election Day next year – what a coincidence! It’s time for Rockland’s State Representatives to stop talking about splitting school districts, getting more lottery spin monies, saving sports for one year, and start speaking out about eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment Law. If they don’t act soon, the sins of political inaction will be borne by students for generations to come.
Former teacher, administrator, Ramapo Central School District
Adjunct instructor political affairs, Syracuse University
Assistant to Town of Ramapo supervisor