Don't shortchange the future

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To The Editor:
We live in a time of great economic hardships. Escalating energy cost, ever-rising prices at the grocery store, few good jobs or no jobs at all, which all contributes to a declining state and local tax base.
As a result of New York State’s challenging financial climate, state aid is continually being reduced to our local municipalities and schools with schools are hit the hardest.
Margaretville Central School (MCS) gets less state revenue today then what it received in 2008=09. MCS only gets a little more than 30 percent of its operating fund through state aid. With the collapse of our economy in 2009, the state faced a massive tax base reduction, which created a significant state budget gap. In order to close this huge budget short fall, Albany could ether raise taxes or borrow money. New York had a debt of $10 billion and its credit rating was under review. If the state raised taxes, who could they tax? The middle class working people where already taxed to the max. New York lost over three million of is working citizens over the past 10 years to other states. So taxing the middle class was politically out of the question.
Governor Paterson decided to tax the rich, the “well to do.” He levied a temporary surcharge tax for only two years. (This year the governor extended the surcharge tax again.) However this tax was not enough to close the state’s massive budget gap.
The governor then enacted the Gap Elimination Adjustment or GEA. It was originally called the Deficit Reduction Assessment Act.
Here’s how it works. When MCS gets its annual state aid, GEA is automatically taken out from state school aid. This year MCS is shorted $409,762. It’s just like your paycheck; taxes are taken out before you get your money. The only difference is GEA is a surcharge tax on our children’s education. MCS’s average mandated give back in state aid over the last five years was over $2 million, that’s an average of over $400,000 every year due to GEA alone.
This coming year will be the sixth-straight year school districts will be subject to GEA, to which MCS will lose on estimated $344,321, if the state legislature approves Governor Cuomo’s budget.
In order for MCS to meet the educational responsibility to its children, the school’s governing board, with the administration, had to trim the budget and was forced to withdraw money from the school’s fund balance, in order to close its own budget gap. A fund balance is like a family savings account; you put a little in over the years, to be used for anticipated expenses and emergency. However, like all savings accounts, there is only so much money you can take out.
The governor’s budget this year included a school-aid increase of $608 million, 2.9 percent, spread over 674 school districts.   That still leaves us short, because of GEA is a giveback of about 13.5 percent, and state aid is a 2.9 percent increase or a 10.6 percent short change for our kids. All the governor has done is reduce our GEA give back.
Now for some good news. This year the state budget has over a $2 billion surplus, which means there is no more budget gap to eliminate. Yet Governor Cuomo has not eliminated GEA.
The second good news is that the state budget is now in the hands of our elected legislature. That gives the citizens of Middletown an opportunity to voice their opinion on where their tax dollars should be spent.
I ask you to join me and millions of other concerned New Yorkers; visit, call, email or write to your elected legislators and tell then to, “Stop short changing our children’s future.” A list of our elected representatives is available at the school office.

Kurt Holcherr, Fleischmanns

Editor’s note: Mr. Holcherr is an elected member of the Margaretville Central School Board of Education.