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State Aid Hike For Four Districts

Two school districts see decreases 

Four Nassau County school districts are to receive increases in state aid while two others are slated to see a decline, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s preliminary budget figures released last week.

The Herricks, Sewanhaka, East Williston and Elmont districts are looking at state aid increases. But the West Hempstead and New Hyde Park-Garden City Park districts are slated to see less state aid under Cuomo’s proposed figures, which may change during the legislative process this year.

Herricks School District saw a $2.29 million increase to $7,256,111, while the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District lost $134,887. The district was awarded $3,731,177 last year.

Herricks Superintendent John Bierwirth does not think the proposed numbers will stick as is, but is thankful an increase is on the table.  

“It looks to us as though, one way or another, there’s going to be an increase for us,” Bierwirth said. “Whether it will be that much or not, we don’t know.”

Herricks is currently presenting more than $3 million in cuts to the board, indicating that although aid increased, it won’t cover the eliminations totally. 

“We’ll be able to restore something without cutting something else but it doesn’t solve our problem.” he said. “But it helps.”

The Sewanhaka Central High School District saw a 5.9 percent increase from last years aid runs. It will receive $26,108,615 next year.

Sewanhaka officials are still analyzing aid figures reported to the district. Superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie said at times, percentage increases “look a bit different than what they actually are.” 

Ferrie was fine with the increase, but as of now, the district is researching 2012-13 to get a better picture of where Sewanhaka could be in 2013-14.

“We’re checking the [numbers] this year for accuracy,” he said acknowledging that because of the new tax cap legislation, the increase in state aid will lessen the impact on the amount of money we have to cut to get to the cap.”

East Williston got a slight uptick with $39,948 in district aid. The district was awarded $2,240,409 in 2012.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Jackie Fitzpatrick doesn’t expect much change to come with aid figures. 

“They’ve been relatively consistent with give and take,” she said. “But for the most part, it’s been in the right direction based on a lot of estimates that have been prepared. For the most part, they’ve been fine.”

The Elmont School District received $19,589,186 in aid, an 8.4 percent increase from last year. Elmont struggled to meet the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap for the 2012-13 school year.

It took two budget votes last year for the district to pass a $78,560,346 budget. That budget held a 6.9 percent tax levy increase. Emails to Superintendent Al Harper were not answered.

The West Hempstead School District lost $311,288 in aid. It received $7,736,875 last year.

West Hempstead is working to close a $2.8 million budget gap. Deputy Superintendent Richard Cunningham expected a flat aid run, with drops in transportation aid because the district decreased that part of its budget by $1 million.

What he didn’t see coming was the decrease in high-tax aid, which most school districts in the state saw a 70 percent decrease. West Hempstead lost $364,141.

“That really hurt a lot of us,” he said. “It wiped out an increase in the state aid lines we saw.”

Outside revenue is faltering in the district, with outside residents in Island Park that pay to attend school dropping yearly along with BOCES vacating the Marian Delaney School (MDS) on Eagle Avenue. West Hempstead lost $1.2 in revenue.

“The complications of the tax cap are coming to roost,” Cunningham said. “The PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes) for the West 130 property are coming on line this year and that decreases your allowable tax levy.”

A potential tenant is interested in MDS, but will not rent the whole building.

The senate and assembly will work to hammer out the governor’s executive budget for an April 1 adoption.

“The governor’s budget is a proposal and, as we negotiate a final budget for New York State, I will be working with my colleagues toward securing more state aid for Long Island school districts,” Senator Jack Martins said. “In this economy, every school district is a high needs district when it comes to funding.”