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Local Districts: State Aid Not Enough

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. 

 

“I am hoping the state aid will bring more than anticipated but there are particulars we will need to comply with [in some areas] in order to [perhaps] realize the additions,” said Glen Cove Superintendent Maria L. Rianna.

 

Based on the preliminary budget figures, the Glen Cove City School District will receive $393,687 more than last year, or a total of $8,465,104—an increase of 4.88 percent.

  

 North Shore School District is slated to receive $3,694,981, which is actually lower than the 2013-14 state aid approved by the State Legislature. “The total amount of state aid approved for North Shore, excluding all special grants last year by the State Legislature was $3,855,975. The Governor’s  2014-15 state aid slated for North Shore is $3,694,981 which is $160,994 less than what the Legislature approved for the district in 2013-14,” said Olivia Buatsi, assistant superintendent for North Shore School District.

 

“It is less because the governor compared his own executive budget proposals for the 2013-14 fiscal year to his state aid estimates for next year,  2014-15. The governor’s state aid estimates are most of the time lower than the final numbers the state legislature

adopts every year,” said Buatsi. “In fact, if I compare the legislative budget to the governor’s proposal for North Shore we will see a  4.2 percent decrease in state aid.”

 

For both districts, state aid has become a major concern since 2010, when Gov. Cuomo capped school districts' 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.  

 

Buatsi is not alone in her 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. 

 

“I think the Legislature will adopt a higher education budget for 2014-15, they always do. The district will therefore receive a bit more than the  $3,855,975 we are slated to receive in 2013-14.  With the exception of one year, the past budgets adopted by the legislature have always been higher than the governor’s in the last 25 years,” said Buatsi.