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Sun., Dec. 21
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North county lawmakers agree: end the gap elimination adjustment

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CANTON - North country lawmakers are united in opposition to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a budget measure taken by the state in 2012 that siphons money away from schools to pay off the state’s deficit.

State Sens. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said they intend to work with their Senate colleagues to implement an end to the GEA in the coming fiscal year’s budget.

“The gap adjust should be done away with,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

She said before the state spends money on a universal pre-kindergarten program, lawmakers should invest in basic funding for schools.

Mrs. Ritchie is a cosponsor of a bill that would see the GEA eliminated within three years.

“We’re at the point where [schools] can no longer manage this tax,” according to Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa. “If we are not able to make meaningful additions to the governor’s education budget I’m prepared to vote no on that portion of the budget.”

St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Thomas R. Burns said getting rid of the GEA is the main priority of educators across the state.

Schools “are losing millions of dollars to GEA,” Mr. Burns said. “It’s certainly in BOCES’s best interest to see school districts retain as much funding as they can.”

Mr. Burns said he has heard several ideas tossed around by lawmakers that would end the GEA in three or five years.

“There is absolutely no way our district can endure this for another five years,” he said. “We’re going to insist on this year.”

Mr. Griffo blamed political gridlock for the failure of the state Legislature to end GEA earlier.

“The Assembly really wasn’t a willing partner last year,” Mr. Griffo said.

He said schools need to make sure that they speak with a unified voice on the issue to pressure the state Assembly into passing legislation that would end the GEA.

Mrs. Ritchie said the number of New York City lawmakers in the Assembly could impede progress, as downstate schools face different budget pressures than upstate schools that are extremely reliant on state aid.

“I’m not sure how that will play out in the other house,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

Mrs. Russell was adamant that she believes the GEA has to go.

“I think the feeling is very much the same among many of my colleagues,” Mrs. Russell said. “We have been very clear in what we want. If our voices have not been heard, I for one will have a very difficult time casting a yes vote” on the budget.

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