School districts in New York have struggled with fluctuating revenue over the past decade, including increases that averaged 1.3 percent over the last three years, according to a report today by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
DiNapoli offered a warning that as schools manage a property-tax cap and a loss of federal stimulus money, they are dealing with growing costs and limited revenue.
“School districts are caught in a financial bind and are struggling for a way out,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
The report comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo will unveil his budget proposal Jan. 21 for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts April 1. Cuomo has increased school aid by about 4 percent over the past two years after schools dealt with flat or decreased aid for several years prior.
Education groups are calling on Cuomo to increase school aid, which totals about $20 billion, by $1.9 billion, and the state Board of Regents recommended an increase of $1.3 billion. Cuomo has increased school aid by nearly $1 billion over the past two years.
DiNapoli, however, said in his report that school revenue from state and federal governments, as well as from property taxes has waned over the past five years. Total school district revenues between the 2007-08 fiscal year and the 2012-13 fiscal year grew an average 2.4 percent annually. In the five years prior, it rose nearly 7 percent a year, he said.
Schools have warned that flat or declining aid has meant layoffs and service cuts. They are also dealing with a property-tax cap that limits increases to about 2 percent a year unless voters in May agree to an override, which has had happened in very few cases.
New York, as has long been the case, spends the most per capita on schools in the nation — $19,076 per student, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in May.
For the 2012-13 school year, which ended last July, school district revenues totaled $60.1 billion. Of that total, state aid accounted for 34 percent ($20 billion), federal aid 5 percent ($3 billion) and 48 percent from local property taxes ($29 billion).
DiNapoli said that schools have been hurt by the loss of federal stimulus aid. New York schools received nearly $5 billion in stimulus money between the schools years of 2009-10 and 2012-13.
Cuomo has defended the property-tax cap as a way to limit growth in a state with among the highest property taxes in the nation. He has also questioned the performance of schools, saying New York doesn’t the best-performing system despite leading the nation in per-pupil expense.