The district strongly advocates for the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo to immediately:

1. Address/Reform state aid distribution and funding. Fair and equitable distribution of state aid needs to be a priority, including striking down the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which takes away promised aid to our district.

State aid should be based on the actual cost of providing a sound basic education for every student in a way that fairly compensates for differences in community costs, needs and resources.

The state’s current system of distributing aid (called the Foundation Aid Formula) appears to be based on need, but funds are distributed based on the philosophy of making sure every school district gets a piece of the pie. So, in reality, this means well-funded districts in wealthier communities receive a level of state aid that is disproportionate in terms of needs compared to less funded districts that would benefit from more aid (i.e. districts in communities that have less wealth and less ability to pay).

In addition, the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) must be eliminated. In basic terms, the GEA is an annual aid “take back” by the state, which has caused Warwick to lose close to $15 million since 2010.

As it stands now, Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature are continuing to apply a GEA for school funding. Even more concerning is that according to the NYS Division of the Budget, the state’s projected deficit is expected to grow in 2014-15 and 2015-16 – leading school districts to wonder whether there is an end in sight to the devastating GEA reductions that have become part of state law.

  • FACT: Warwick has lost approximately millions in state aid over the last several years.
  • FACT: The Gap Elimination Adjustment has cost the district close to $15 million in lost aid since 2010.
  • FACT: When state aid is cut, the negative impacts on Warwick are felt throughout the community.
    Want to learn more about the Gap Elimination Adjustment?
    Click HERE.

2. Reform, remove or refuse to create additional unfunded/underfunded state mandates.

Of the 151 mandates that represent the greatest challenges to districts in terms of financial burden and required time, 69 percent come with no funding. New York State also has 227 distinct special education mandates above and beyond those required by federal law.

Some solutions to this financial problem for schools include: placing no new unfunded/underfunded state mandates on school districts, exempting school districts from the Wicks Law and limiting special education mandates to those required by the federal government.

A full review of the unfunded and underfunded mandates would help prioritize their effectiveness based on a cost benefit analysis. However, as already stated, it is imperative that school districts are not burdened with more unfunded or underfunded mandates.

About mandates
While mandates increase accountability and, in many cases, improve educational quality, they can also limit flexibility and impact how school districts spend money. Mandates not only focus on the education, health and safety of students but also encompass many other aspects of daily school operations. Here are some examples:

  • Grades 3-8 and Regents testing, scoring analysis and mailings to parents/guardians in conjunction with the No Child Left Behind act and state graduation requirements.
  • Annual Profession Performance Reviews (APPR) for teachers and principals, including the creation of a district APPR plan outlining formal review procedures, criteria for and methods of assessment and how the district will provide training for reviewers.
  • Special education mandates, including Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), specialized instruction by appropriately certified professionals and related service providers, Committee on Special Education (CSE) chairperson and more.
  • Internal and external audit requirements and reporting, and required separation of business office duties.
  • Transportation of students with disabilities to their programs (up to 50 miles), of private school and charter school students (up to 15 miles) and of homeless students to current or prior district (based on parent choice).
  • Transportation of students to private and parochial schools (up to 15 miles).
  • Requirement to pay for health services and textbooks for students who live in the district but choose to attend private or parochial schools.
  • Mandatory paid employee time off for breast and prostate cancer screening and blood donations.
  • Purchase of costly graphing calculators for students (required for intermediate-level and high school math and science tests).
  • Required collection and reporting (to the state department of health) of students’ body mass indexes, including screening for eating disorders.
  • Numerous plans and reports, including: incarcerated student plans, early grade size district plans, attendance plans and reports, five-year capital facilities plans, building condition surveys, special education space requirements plan, pesticide notification requirements, school-based shared decision-making plan, instructional computer technology plans, individual home instruction plan, district and school safety plans, code of conduct, etc.

About the Wicks Law
The Wicks Law requires multiple contractors on most construction projects, which leads to higher costs for schools (and the state) when capital improvement projects are done. Exempting schools from this law would mean significant savings.

3. Reform the current pension system and set maximum health benefit contributions for employers.

About TRS and ERS
The New York State Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and the New York State Employee Retirement System (ERS) have three sources of revenue: employee contributions (fixed), employer contributions (set by the state) and investment returns on these contributions (based on the stock market). Both pension systems were established by the legislature, but ERS is administered by the state comptroller, while TRS is administered by the New York State TRS Retirement Board. Under the current funding structure for TRS and ERS, employers have to compensate for any stock market losses, meaning these benefit costs are subject to a great deal of fluctuation and uncertainty.
Warwick is calling for the state to allow districts to establish reserve funds for TRS contributions to help offset the large fluctuations. Such accounts are allowed for ERS contributions. It makes good fiscal sense for districts to plan ahead for large increases in pension contributions, just as homeowners can put away money into a savings account for unanticipated costs. Below is a comparison information showing the differences in the district’s contribution rates between 2008-2009 and what is projected through next year:
TRS Contribution Increase:
2008-2009: 7.63 Percent
2012-2013: 11.84 Percent
2013-2014 (projected): 16.5 Percent
ERS Contribution Increase:
2008-2009: 9.25 Percent
2012-2013: 18.9 Percent
2013-2014 (projected): 20.9 Percent

New York State should enact immediate reforms that would make the TRS and ERS pension system more predictable and affordable to employers.