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FILE - In this September 2017 photo, children board the bus on the first day of school in Auburn.

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

Following adoption of the state budget last week, two Cayuga County districts, including the county's largest, will be required to submit building-by-building spending data to the state beginning in the 2018-19 school year. 

Auburn and Union Springs school districts will be subject to the mandate in its first year, according to the state Division of Budget. In the 2018-19 school year, the reporting requirement applies to districts with four or more schools and state aid accounting for more than 50 percent of their revenue. 

Auburn has five elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school. Union Springs has three buildings — an elementary school, junior high and high school — and is in the process of closing one of its elementary schools. But since the state is using a prior year's data, it shows Union Springs as having four buildings. 

The districts will be required to detail how much money it spends on each school. This information will be submitted to the state budget director and published so the public can view the data. 

In 2019-20, districts with at least four schools will be subject to the reporting requirement. The mandate will apply to all other districts beginning in the 2020-21 school year. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the provision because he believes it will increase education spending transparency and help address inequity in how aid is distributed. He has repeatedly said that the state spends more per pupil than any other state, but doesn't believe it's being given to the schools that need it the most. 

"Let's get that analysis, let's get it statewide, then let's run all the entire list of schools in the state," he said at a press conference Friday in Albany. "Who gets what, what performance level and then you can come up with an equitable funding mechanism." 

But education leaders question whether the reporting requirement is necessary. 

Michael Borges, executive director of the New York State Association of School Business Officials, said the mandate will be "redundant" because the federal government is already requiring school districts to report per pupil spending by building beginning at the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year. 

However, Borges acknowledged that the state-level requirement will go further because how schools allocate funding will be reviewed by the state Division of Budget and the state Education Department. He also noted that districts will need to reconfigure their existing accounting systems because budgeting software is usually designed to record district-wide spending, not building-by-building expenditures. 

"This is a very expensive unfunded mandate that particularly for rural poor districts that don't have the staff to conduct this kind of analysis is going to be overly burdensome," he said. 

Auburn Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo explained that the data on a building-by-building basis could be misleading.

In his district, there is an elementary school with three special education classes which elevates the per pupil costs. Poverty is more prevalent at some schools. The presence of athletics at the junior high and high school are factored into the schools' budget. 

"How are we going to equally disburse all the money among buildings and what is the state really looking for?" Pirozzolo asked. "For a school district like Auburn, I don't know what that's going to prove."

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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