Written by Ronald Scaglia, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 01 February 2013 00:00
Massapequa schools would see an 8.7 percent decline in aid under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state package released last week, according to district officials.
Massapequa Deputy Superintendent Alan Adcock at first thought his district would be receiving a slight increase in state aid. However, Adcock says that upon further evaluation, the governor’s proposal actually decreases the amount of state aid. This adds to other budget issues that Adcock has been warning of which could result in a $6 million budget shortfall for next year’s budget.
“This is a devastating general operating aid package to Nassau County and Massapequa in particular,” remarked Adcock.
But the governor’s budget must be approved by the state legislature, which will debate the figures into the spring.
According to Adcock, it is a reduction in a category called high tax aid that will significantly affect Massapequa in a negative way. The deputy superintendent said that although the overall numbers do not appear all that devastating, when analyzed, some of the aid falls into the category of expenditure driven aid which Adcock said is not likely to fully materialize in Massapequa. He also blasted Cuomo’s proposal, which calls for a significant decrease in high tax aid.
“In an effort to close state aid budget gaps, they’re taking money away from some school districts,” said Adcock. “They’re pushing it from one school district to another.”
Local state elected officials concurred with Adcock in expressing concerns about Cuomo’s proposed 2013/14 budget.
“I’m very concerned by how the governor is removing some high tax aid from our schools,” said Assemblyman Tom McKevitt. “What the governor has done is he’s taken $50 million of high tax aid and shifted it to other lines in the education budget. What that is doing – it’s having a negative affect on many Long Island school districts, particularly Massapequa. I will be working with my colleagues over the next two months to try to restore as much aid as possible. The high tax is greatly concerning us right now.”
State Sen. Kemp Hannon said that he and his colleagues worked to put high tax aid into the state budget. Hannon said that money is now being redistributed at the expense of some districts, including Massapequa.
“When the governor announces a 4 percent hike in school aid, most people feel that will be distributed equitably,” said Hannon. “In contrast to that, we have some [districts] with absolute losses or who are staying the same so that as we go through the discussions and the negotiations on the budget, we will work to make sure there is a far more equitable distribution of the money.”
State Sen. Charles Fuschillo said, “I do not agree with the governor’s proposed budget for the Massapequa School District,”
Prior to the state aid proposal, Adcock had warned that the district must account for a 30 to 40 percent rise in pension costs and this increase alone could exceed the district’s allowable tax cap. In addition, Adcock says that school districts are looking at added costs because the New York State Health Insurance Plan (NYSHIP) will not utilize reserve funds to offset the cost of health insurance for its customers, as was done last year. Other factors that will affect the budget include whether the courts uphold the repeal of the “County Guarantee,” which transfers the liability of providing refunds to residents whose properties were over-assessed from Nassau County to school districts, and how much state aid the district receives.
If the budget shortfall does materialize, the Massapequa School Board would be left with deciding on cuts or presenting a budget that exceeds the New York State property tax cap of 2 percent. If the decision were made to exceed the cap, a supermajority of 60 percent of voters would have to approve it. However, Adcock said that because of the effects of Superstorm Sandy, he did not think the community or the school board would accept a budget that pierces the tax cap threshold.
Asked what the likely scenario would be, Adcock said, “Cuts within all areas of the school district,”
Public budget discussion sessions will take place on Thursday Feb. 7, Thursday, March 7 and Thursday, March 21. All three public budget information sessions will be held at 8 p.m. in the board room of the Central Administration Building.