With the start of the school year quickly approaching and school budgets firmly in place for 2010-2011, the announcement that the federal government will be handing New York state $607 million to save education jobs has left Wayne-Finger Lakes superintendents appreciative, but also cautious about the best way to use this one-time revenue stream.

With the start of the school year quickly approaching and school budgets firmly in place for 2010-2011, the announcement that the federal government will be handing New York state $607 million to save education jobs has left Wayne-Finger Lakes superintendents appreciative, but also cautious about the best way to use this one-time revenue stream.

“Districts have some important decisions to make on how and when they choose to use this money,” said Joseph Marinelli, district superintendent for Wayne-Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Earlier this year, the 25 school districts in the Wayne-Finger Lakes region took a $24 million hit in state aid.

“These cuts financially strapped districts and will impact their bottom lines negatively for years to come,” Marinelli said. “Our districts are facing another uncertain budget year, where they will, once again, be asked to do more with less.”

Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Education Jobs Bill on Aug. 10. The Education Jobs Fund program is a new federal program that provides $10 billion in assistance to states to save or create education jobs. According to
the United States Department of Education’s Web site, jobs funded under this program include those that provide educational and related services for early childhood, elementary and secondary education. Monies will be distributed to states by a formula based on population figures. States can distribute their funding to school districts based on their own primary funding formula — in New York, the Foundation Aid program — or by districts’ relative share of federal Title I funds. This funding is a one time distribution that can be used until September 2012.

Most superintendents agreed that using a majority of the Ed Jobs funds this school year to rehire teachers who were let go could create bigger staffing and financial problems down the road. In addition to “funding cliff” issues, Rick Amundson, superintendent at Lyons Central School District, said he is concerned about the probability of a property tax cap.

“A 2-percent cap on property taxes means school districts like Lyons could be truly devastated,” he said.

Amundson projects that a capped 2-percent increase in property taxes leaves the Lyons district with only an increase of approximately $86,000.

“If the district can’t raise taxes to offset state aid cuts and the loss of stimulus dollars, where is the money going to come from so we can maintain an acceptable education for the children in our district?” he questioned.

There are still questions surrounding the distribution of the Ed Jobs funds, said Marinelli. The state Legislature is scheduled to return to Albany in mid-September at the earliest, and legislation still needs to be created and approved to allocate and spend the federal aid.