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Canton Central School. Photo: Lizette Haenel
Canton Central School. Photo: Lizette Haenel

Is budget boost enough to save North Country schools?

Schools are digesting news of a $1.1 billion increase in state aid in the budget deal announced over the weekend.

State Senator Patty Ritchie says that's the largest increase in five years, which includes $20 million extra for schools within her 48th Senate district in Jefferson, Oswego, and part of St. Lawrence Counties.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Ritchie says the extra funding will close the hole for many schools. "There are still some schools that will still have an issue, one of them being Canton. So for those schools, we’ll continue to advocate to see what can be done."

Canton is one of the schools hit hard by what’s called the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), essentially a program where schools have been paying back state aid to close the deficit in Albany. Ritchie calls it “a budget gimmick” that should be scrapped altogether.

"We were able to redirect over $600 million to restoring that. And as we go forward, I will work to make sure that that is eliminated next year."

But some educators doubt that will happen. Doug Huntley, superintendent of the Queensbury Union Free School District, says Albany has promised to phase out the GEA three straight years. He’s critical of $300 million in the new budget going to pre-kindergarten programs in New York City, which NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio had encouraged be paid for with a tax on the wealthy in the city.

"For those who live in Upstate New York," Huntley says, "that $300 million could have gone toward closing the Gap Elimination Adjustment for schools like Queensbury, and like Canton and Potsdam and schools in the North Country, and therefore, it would lessen the burden on our local taxpayers."

Schools across the North Country are fitting in the numbers this week to see how much they’ll have to ask taxpayers for when school budget votes come in May.

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