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Schools Facing Possible Cuts in State Aid

New York State Governor David Paterson unveiled a two-year, $5 billion deficit reduction plan that he believes would eliminate the state’s current-year budget gap without raising taxes, as well as institute major structural reforms. However, part of thex plan includes a decrease in state aid that is filtered down to local school districts including those in Nassau County. Such a decrease in school aid could find school taxes, which are already the largest part of a property owner’s property tax bill, escalate ever higher.

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, school aid for 2009/10 was projected to total $21.9 billion, an increase of $415 million or 1.9 percent from the 2008/09 school year. However, the deficit reduction plan calls for an increase of $271 million or 1.3 percent from 2008/09.

Adjustments have been projected for school districts in the state on the amount of aid school districts would lose for the 2009/10 school year based on the efforts to reduce the budget gap.

The Levittown School District stands to lose $2,150,612 while the Island Trees School District stands to lose $829,895.

Republican Assemblyman David McDonough, who represents those communities, isn’t ready to go along with such school aid cuts to close the budget gap. He said the Democratic majorities in the senate and assembly have not brought a specific plan out for a vote yet.

“The Republican minorities [senate and assembly] have offered the governor alternative plans that are almost similar but have no cuts to education or healthcare,” McDonough said. “These add up to $3.2 billion in savings, which is the governor’s goal. If a school aid cut comes through, I think the plan that they would present might have much lower cuts.”

Democratic Senator Craig Johnson, who also represents those communities, also opposes mid-year school cuts. “There is no doubt that budget cuts have to be made now and structural changes need
 to be achieved in preparation for when federal stimulus funds dry up in the 2011-2012 budget,” he said. “However,
 these mid-stream reductions cannot be made on the backs of Long Island 
taxpayers. We are committed to working with our partners in
 government to ensure that this deficit is reduced in a way that is fair and equitable to residents across New York State.”

Governor Paterson believes the projected budget deficit has to be addressed, saying in a press release, “The fiscal challenge we must address is clear and undeniable. Revenues have continued to plummet below already conservative projections and immediate action is needed to restore the fiscal integrity of our state budget. Delaying the tough choices we must inevitably make will do nothing besides make those choices more difficult.”