State education leaders say small city school districts have been at a financial disadvantage for decades and will ask New York voters this Election Day to approve a change to the state constitution that would raise the debt ceiling. He said that they are united in this.
When early voting begins Saturday, New Yorkers will need to flip their ballots and vote on two constitutional amendments. The first would eliminate constitutional debt limits on small urban school districts when borrowing money for educational purposes, including roof and infrastructure repairs, air filtration system work, security and technology upgrades, and other projects. Thing.
“Proposition 1 will create a level playing field for our school districts,” Bob Rowley of the State Council of Superintendents said in a statement Wednesday. “There will be no special treatment; rather, small urban school districts will be treated like the other 600-plus school districts in the state, and their students will benefit greatly.”
New York’s small cities include cities with fewer than 125,000 residents, such as Albany, Ithaca, Niagara Falls, Troy, Hudson, and Batavia.
School districts in these cities are capped at borrowing 5% of their property tax base if they incur debt. That’s half of what the remaining roughly 600 suburban and rural school districts can borrow at 10 percent.
“This is an equity issue,” said Bob Bridenstein, executive director of the Association of Small City School Districts. “The constitutional debt limits for small city school districts are much more stringent than for other school districts in the state.”
Approximately 200,000 students attend one of 57 school districts in small cities across the state. About 62% of these students attend economically disadvantaged, high-need school districts, and education advocates say proposed changes to give these districts a foundation of economic equity are long overdue. It is claimed that
If voters approve a constitutional amendment that removes the debt limit, small urban schools would be allowed to take on 10% debt, like other school districts.
Those questioning the proposal are concerned about the financial impact on taxpayers.
Bridenstine said the change will not affect taxpayers, residents or students in other school districts.
“Small city districts must continue to demonstrate good governance and leadership and make important decisions that are supported by their communities,” he said.
Bridenstine added that social media posts claiming that raising the debt ceiling for small urban districts would increase school taxes across the state are false.
Voters rejected a similar constitutional amendment on the New York ballot in 2003, but it failed with 54.2% rejecting the proposal. The reason is unknown, but Analysis by Albany Law School Government Law Center It points to an organized campaign at the time against the continuation of the debt limit.
Years ago, state legislatures established different budget policies for suburban, rural, and urban schools.
Until laws changed in the late 1990s under former Gov. George Pataki, small city schools could set their own budgets and approve spending without voter approval; The school debt ceiling was left in place.
“This is why we really need to fix this old constitutional debt limit,” New York City PTA Executive Director Kyle Berakopitsky said Wednesday. “Because we have amended the law and now we need to amend the rest of the law.”
Belakopitsky is part of an education advocacy group calling for the passage of a constitutional amendment.
It is supported by the NYS Education Conference Committee, which includes the State Teachers Union, the State School Boards Association, and the Council of Superintendents.
They say inequality reduces purchasing power for schools in small cities.
“We’re all behind it,” Berakopitsky said. “We hope the public will do the same.”