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Ginestre: Aid Cut Would Be Devastating

The Sherman Central School Board was recently updated on the return of students to school. Superintendent Michael Ginestre also discussed the impacts of a 20% withholding of state aid. Submitted photo

SHERMAN — “Our goal in this is to tell you now, we are planning for the worst case scenario and hoping for a better scenario.”

With these words, Michael Ginestre, Sherman Central School superintendent, summed up the stark reality being faced by school districts across the state — a 20% withholding of state aid.

At their recent meeting recently, board of education members received a presentation from Ginestre and Kimberly Oehlbeck, business manager, concerning the state aid situation.

Ginestre told board members that the 20% aid hold back could become a cut in state aid if the federal government does nor provide funding to the states.

While the possible cut in funding is statewide for all municipalities and school districts, Ginestre emphasized that it will be particularly devastating for schools like Sherman who depend on state aid for nearly 70% of their revenue.

“This is not unique across the state,” he said. “But it is to Sherman because we rely so heavily on state aid. Any percent cut creates an inequitable model because we rely on 70% state aid for our budget.”

He noted that in wealthier school districts, state aid comprises only about 30% of revenue. Therefore, they are in a much better position to absorb a 20% withholding of funds. Ginestre and Oehlbeck told board members that the district anticipated $6,921,090 in aid for the 2020-21 school year, which was already a reduction of $241,826 from the previous year. The district intended to use reserve funds and a small tax increase to offset that decrease.

If the overall holdback becomes a cut, the district faces a potential loss of $1,273,195, Ginestre said. He noted that the Department of Budget says they are looking at a more equitable way of holding back funds so poorer districts will not suffer such an enormous impact.

“So, what next?” Ginestre asked. “First of all, we will examine and analyze every expenditure, and we will trust that the cuts will be more equitable, as promised by the Department of Budget,” he said. “And we will engage in lobbying efforts and put out more press releases.”

Ginestre said if everything stays the same, January to February will be the danger zone for the district.

“We will prepare for cuts in revenue and present our plans to the board of education,” he said. “It’s an ugly picture, to say the least.”

In other business, Ginestre and Ann Morrison, Sherman principal, discussed their impressions of the beginning of the school year.

“Our first two weeks of school went fairly well,” Morrison said. “The kids adapted well. In fact, they are less upset with the changes than most adults would be.”

Morrison went on to say that the students have done very well with entering the building at the beginning of the day and with physical education. Waiting lines at the beginning of the day have been almost eliminated, she said.

“We timed it last Thursday and we had everyone through in six minutes,” she said.

Morrison told board members that she went over the hybrid plan, policies and procedures regarding COVID-19, health office updates, the Harvard Study updates, changes with American Reading Company and the schedule with faculty and staff.

She noted how everyone has a deeper understanding of the responsibilities of those with whom they work.

“Everyone seems to have a new found appreciation for their co-workers,” she said.

Ginestre said he is extremely pleased with how smoothly things went on opening day.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of being at Sherman than I was when the doors opened on the first day,” he said.

Ginestre said that everyone put forth a herculean effort to open the building on Sept. 8.

“All the new procedures were in place with the transportation department, the building and grounds people worked miracles, and everyone worked countless hours to make it happen,” he said. “I can’t say thank you enough.”

Ginestre noted that, on the opening day of school, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference in which he said schools are required to report every detail regarding COVID-19 testing daily.

“It’s quite labor-intensive and it’s adding to the mounds and mounds of responsibilities of the people in the health office,” he said.

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