March 16, 2016

Dear Parents and Community Members,

I hope everyone has a wonderful and well-deserved Spring Break. I write to you to ask a favor in hopes that we can continue the great work we are doing here at the Dover Schools. This work has led to a 10% increase in graduation rates, improved academic performance of our Special Education students, aligned our curriculum in Math and ELA, increased the number of students earning college credits and being college & career ready.

At this point in our budget development, we face a budget gap of $879,000. The main reasons for this gap are: 1) tax cap; 2) GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment); 3) increased mandates; 4) Foundation Aid formula.

The tax cap limit for the Dover Schools this year is set at .93%. This is equal to $175,000 that we can increase the levy without an override needing 60% approval. Based on our increases in salary, expenses and contractual obligations, our initial rollover budget has increased $1,000,000.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment has been money taken away from districts to reduce the $9 billion budget gap that existed five years ago. There is no longer a deficit, therefore there should be no more GEA. This has taken millions from the Dover Schools over the past five years.

I cannot argue with many of the new mandates that have been brought forward over the last five years, but I can argue that these mandates are given to us without being funded. The increased mandate in English Learners, formerly ELL, is another major unfunded mandate that is most difficult in small schools like ours.

Lastly, the Foundation Aid formulas are not current and do little to help us offset all the formational cost increases. The State has not fully funded Foundation Aid nor have they made adequate adjustments to help higher-needs schools.

To keep this letter short, I ask your help. Please contact your Assembly member or State Senator using the links provided below and ask them to support the following five steps to save our schools. This is a critical moment in our efforts to get increased aid to maintain our schools’ programs.

1. Immediate support for the “de-coupling” of NYS aid from the July 1, 2016 deadline for adopting a new teacher evaluation plan 3012d. §3012d is the largest unfunded mandate to face our public schools.

2. End GEA this year. Albany no longer has a funding gap. The year to end it is NOW. The districts of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Rockland are still owed $46,373,581.
3. Fully fund the Foundation Aid formula.
4. Adjust the Tax Levy Cap formula to that of Albany’s – a 2% levy on expenditures.
5. End unfunded and underfunded mandates – or fund them!

Links: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/
https://www.nysenate.gov/senators-committees

Thank you for your help and enjoy your Spring Break.
Respectfully,

Michael Tierney