LAKE PLACID - In front of the Olympic Center Sunday, March 9, a group of around two dozen Tri-Lakes area protestors wanted to get Gov. Andrew Cuomo's attention during his Adirondack Winter Challenge event.
The group was protesting the state's Gap Elimination Adjustment. The policy began in the 2009-10 school year, enacted by Gov. David Paterson's administration. Legislators used it to reduce the state's revenue shortfall by shifting costs to school districts.
Aggie Pelletieri, co-president of Tupper Lake United Teachers and a Saranac Lake resident, was at the protest Sunday.
"The Tupper Lake Central School District, as well as, hundreds of others around the state, cannot serve our students without the elimination of the GEA," Pelletieri said. "The governor has been placing unfunded mandates on school districts while systematically taking funding away."
Tupper Lake is currently on the list of the most fiscally stressed school districts in the state, ranking 12th on a recent comptroller's office report.
Don Carlisto, co-president of the Saranac Lake Teachers Association, was also at the protest handing out information about the GEA.
"The Saranac Lake Teacher Association was glad to stand with parents and other members of the Tri-Lakes community to amplify concerns about school funding," Carlisto wrote in an email. "The Tri-Lakes school boards, the Village of Saranac Lake, Franklin County and others have expressed strong support for the elimination of the state's gap elimination adjustment. We wanted to bring their message forward, in a public way."
Last week, both the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid school boards passed resolution calling for an end to the GEA. Tupper Lake's school board passed a similar resolution in February. Some other local government boards have echoed this; the Franklin County Board of Legislators is among those who passed similar resolutions.
Since the GEA was created, it has reduced state aid to the Saranac Lake Central School District by a total of $3,983,648. The district will likely face cuts of some kind, whether it be program or staff, by the end of the month. The Tupper Lake Central School District had its state aid reduced by $1,860,000, and the Lake Placid Central School District's was cut by $1,489,079.
Pelletieri said she believes Cuomo was aware of the group's presence at the event, although they did not see him.
"It is certainly commendable that the governor has been to the North Country and is showing fellow New Yorkers this beautiful landscape, but without restored funding, we are in serious jeopardy of losing our communities."