The Examiner

Latimer: Bipartisan Support Seen to End GAP Elimination

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LatimerState Sen. George Latimer (D-Rye) wants to see termination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) for the 2016-17 state budget that would reinstate millions of dollars for schools in Westchester and throughout the state.

Latimer said he supported the Senate Republicans’ measure, which passed last week, calling for restoration of 100 percent of the funds to school districts this year.

In Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget, half of the funds would be reinstated; however, the districts located within the 37th Senate District that Latimer represents, only 42 percent of the money is returned. For some school systems in his area there is less than one-third restoration.

For the 15 school districts in Latimer’s district, about $4.75 million is currently slated to be returned, still leaving a more than $6.5 million gap.

“Throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have fought to end the GEA,” Latimer said. “It is an undue burden unfairly imposed on our schools. It shortchanges our students, limits our teachers and hampers education.”

If Cuomo’s proposal stands, school districts would still see outstanding GEA money of more than $425 million statewide, he said.

Last week’s vote drew bipartisan support in the Senate, overwhelmingly passing by a 53-9 margin.

The GEA was devised in 2010 to help the state cover budget shortfalls by diverting money from public education. During the past two years, the GEA has been reduced by about 60 percent.

However, with school districts facing a maximum tax levy increase of .12 percent under the state imposed tax cap and no mandate relief in sight, school officials have expressed concern about how current programs and staff will be maintained.

While Cuomo’s budget advertised that about half of the outstanding funding would be restored, in some local districts it’s much less than that. White Plains would receive $198,000 of its $402,000 outstanding Gap Elimination funding, but Byram Hills in Armonk would receive $95,985 under the governor’s executive’s proposal. It is owed nearly $320,000.

The Harrison School District would need $420,015 to be made whole, but is slated to receive $126,004.

Latimer said a telling and hopeful sign is that last week’s vote received broad support on both sides of the aisle.

“I believe we have to negotiate this into the budget,” Latimer said. “The Republicans support it and I support it, too.”

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