main content starts here

When is $1.9 million not $1.9 million?

When the $1.9 million is the reported school aid increase to Central Valley School District.

Listening to media coverage, Central Valley taxpayers might think the district just received a state aid windfall. Although aid increased, it is nowhere near the 7.16 percent or $1.9 million touted in newspapers and on radio and television.

“It’s actually $823,224, closer to 4.35 percent,” said District Business Manager Ken Long.

The confusion, said Mr. Long, is that people see that figure and think the state is Central Valley an additional $1.9 million to operate next year. He explained that more than $1.1 million of the increase is not new money. It is reimbursement for money the district spent last year.

Mr. Long said the state requires districts to pay certain costs such as BOCES, high cost special education placements and transportation and then submit those expenditures for reimbursement. He compares the process to a tax return.

“You pay your taxes in advance and then—if you are fortunate—you get some of your own money back. It’s not new income; it’s just a refund,” he said.

That number, he said, greatly inflates people’s perception of school aid. A survey of all Herkimer County school districts shows the districts will receive $6.4 million more in aid in 2014-15 compared to 2013-14, but 40 percent of that “additional” aid—$2.45 million—is reimbursements.

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra agrees that this reporting is misleading, but wants everyone to know that the district is grateful for the additional money.

“Our area districts are struggling to provide their students with the best education they can. Every new dollar means we have a little more to spend on our kids,” he said.