Economy Slows, But Not School Spending

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A slowing economy hasn’t stopped New York school districts from spending and spending, a new report shows.

The Empire Center for Public Policy says that New York school districts will increase per-pupil spending next year by nearly 1 1/2 times the current rate of inflation—despite the housing slump and struggling economy.

You can view each school’s planned spending for the upcoming school year in the report 2008-09 School Budget Spotlight for 634 school districts in the state.

Data reviewed from the state Education Department shows that spending per-pupil will increase by an average of 5.8 percent, to a statewide average of $18,768 per student. Per-pupil tax levies will increase by an average of 4.2 percent, to a statewide average of $10,796, under proposed 2008-09 budgets, the Empire Center found.

Annual consumer price inflation is estimated at less than 4 percent.

The biggest school budget increases are in the Southern Tier, where the average per-pupil spending increase is 7.5 percent.

The Finger Lakes region has the lowest increases, with proposed per-pupil spending hikes of 5.2 percent. Only one-fifth of the districts statewide proposed spending increases at or below the inflation rate, the report says.

E. J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center, said the report shows the reason why the state needs a property-tax cap, which is being reviewed by a panel headed by Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

The panel is slated to issue its recommendations May 22.

“While New Yorkers are tightening their belts, too many school districts are expanding their spending commitments to levels they will not be able to sustain without larger tax increases in the future,” McMahon said.

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