Written by Daniel Offner Friday, 31 January 2014 00:00
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $137 billion spending plan will increase education aid by $807 million for the 2014-2015 school year, but school officials say it will still put them up against the wall.
“We are hoping the legislature can make some significant improvements [to the budget],” said Farmingdale Schools Superintendent John Lorentz. “Otherwise, Farmingdale and other school districts will have some tough decisions to make.”
Based on the preliminary budget figures, the Farmingdale School District will receive $746,419 more than last year, or a total of $27,966,058—an increase of 2.74 percent.
“It’s disappointing,” Lorentz said. “They’ve already limited taxpayers’ ability to contribute to the school district through the tax cap... you would think the state would step up [aid for school districts].”
For Lorentz, state aid has become a major concern since 2010, when Gov. Cuomo capped school district’s abilities to hike the tax levy more than two percent.
Using the preliminary budget numbers, the state Department of Education has calculated estimates of how much state aid will be allocated to each individual school district. Of the $807 million increase, the state education department estimates a $24.2 million increase for school districts in Nassau County. The $807 million proposed in the executive budget drives an average increase of nearly $300 per student.
The executive budget also allocates $1.5 billion, over a five-year period, to fund a statewide universal full-day pre-K program, $720 million over five years to expand after-school programs, and proposes a $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act to ensure students have access to the latest technology needed to compete on the global stage.
And Farmingdale’s Lorentz is not alone in his disdain for the proposed state aid increases. According to Timothy G. Kremer, the executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, the $807 million increase statewide would leave schools unable to continue their current programs and services without exceeding the tax cap.
“While the governor’s budget contains many laudable issues such as state-funded universal prekindergarten and after-school programs, his state aid allocation falls way short of the mark,” Kremer said. “We appreciate the governor’s leadership in putting forward a $2 billion proposal for technology and capital costs associated with full-day prekindergarten expansion, but hope that the Legislature will increase the state’s investment in general support for public schools.”
Since the executive budget has not yet been approved by state lawmakers, the amount of state aid is subject to change.