YONKERS, N.Y. - Yonkers Public School administrators say they are “extremely disappointed” with the level of state aid the district will receive next year and may have to rethink plans to restore several positions and programs.
The state budget, passed by legislators and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, allocates about $225 million for Yonkers schools. That is an $11.3 million, or 5.3 percent, increase from this year.
But administrators say it is not enough for one of New York’s neediest school systems.
“The district’s hope to restore resources for our students is now compromised,” school officials said in an emailed statement Thursday. “A 5.3 percent increase in state aid leaves the district with a sizable budget gap that threatens the elimination of more personnel and reductions in programs.”
Administrators said Yonkers schools are still reeling from the devastating cuts incurred over the past few years that forced the elimination of hundreds of employee positions and the curtailing of programs and services.
Compared with the 2008-09 school year, Yonkers Public Schools is down 608 staffing positions, including 52 guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers as well as 371 teachers, according to district documents.
Last month, the superintendent said he was working on a “restorative” $536 million proposed budget , a spending plan that would reinstate several of the lost programs and positions. It included returning prekindergarten programs to a full day, adding pupil support staff, including guidance counselors to all the high schools, and bringing athletic programs “up to par.”
But with a projected $28 million budget deficit looming, the district said it would need help from lawmakers in Albany and at City Hall to make its restoration efforts a reality.
Unfortunately, officials said, they didn’t get the help from the state they were hoping for.
“The superintendent is extremely disappointed in the level of funding for Yonkers Public Schools,” district spokeswoman Maura Lamoreaux said.
The $11.3 million allocated to Yonkers in the state’s 2013-14 approved budget, however, was an increase of $2.3 million from what the district would have received under the governor’s original proposal. And of the “Big 5” districts, Yonkers was among the highest in terms of percentage of aid increases, with Syracuse and Buffalo school aid up roughly 2 percent and Rochester and New York City up 5.3 percent and 4.6 percent respectively.
State Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) said lawmakers in Albany fought hard for the increases and remain committed to restoring services in Yonkers.
“We are going to fight for state money, fight for city money and do everything we can to restore the services,” she said. “That’s where our commitment is and we will continue to do the best we can.”
Yonkers administrators said they are reviewing budget projections and rethinking their options as they look to deal with the projected funding deficit, a gap that now sits at about $26 million.
“The district will continue to work very closely with the mayor's office to find avenues of additional funding to support the restoration of programs,” administrators said.
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