News10 in the Classroom: Averill Park begins letter writing camp - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

News10 in the Classroom: Averill Park begins letter writing campaign to urge elimination of GEA


AVERILL PARK, N.Y.----Months before Governor Cuomo reveals his executive budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the district is beginning a letter writing campaign to legislators, urging them to eliminate the gap elimination adjustment.

First implemented in 2010, it's original purpose was to help close the state's budget gap, by reducing education aid.

However, the GEA has still existed in every budget since.

"If the cuts continue and the situation continues, we've got probably three years left until we can't offer a viable program anymore," says superintendent Dr. James Hoffman.

Dr. Hoffman says with the loss in state aid and the property tax cap, there is no where else to turn.

"We need the Governor to understand as he builds his budget, the effect the Gap Elimination Adjustment is having," says Dr. Hoffman.

Morris Peters, a spokesperson for the New York State Division of Budget says the GEA is still present but shrinking.

In a statement, Peters writes, "While keeping spending flat across state government, this year the state increased education aid by $1 billion, more than 4%. Next year, the growth of school aid will again be tied to the state's underlying fiscal capacity."

Peters tells News10 ABC he expects the increase next year to be hundreds of millions of dollars.

But the Averill Park School District says that does not make up for the deep cuts made in the past.

Dr. Hoffman and school board president Chris Foster is urging community members to write letters to legislators, asking for a complete elimination of the GEA.

"The GEA is something at the end of the day that I think none of us were thrilled with, but we were willing to put up with it for a certain amount of years," says Foster. "Going into our fifth year, in my mind, it's become a convenient source of revenue for them."

"You don't go into a job like this to dismantle a school district," adds Dr. Hoffman. "You go into it to improve programs and make graduation a viable experience so when students leave here, they are college and career ready like the Governor wants our students to be."

Dr. Hoffman says his goal is not to attack the Governor, rather work with him when it comes to education funding.

Parents in the district say they will do everything they can to help encourage letter writing and prevent the school from becoming insolvent.

"We hope for all the opportunities for our young girls and that's why we picked this district," says Rachael Kittleson. "So to think in three years, when my daughter is in high school this could be our reality, this can't happen. We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn't."

"For a school district like this to go under, I know that's not what the Governor intends to do," adds Tom Cetrino. "He wants to replicate schools like Averill Park, he does not want them to be insolvent. The GEA is really working contrary to what he really wants to accomplish."

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