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Martins Explains School District State Aid Figures

Says Mineola aid was not cut, but reimbursable aid decreased because district did not spend the funds

Mineola School District officials recently commented on state aid figures for Mineola, stating the district received cuts in state aid. According to one local senator, aid went down, but not because of cuts.

State education aid is broken down into two components: Foundation aid (FA) and reimbursable aid (RA). FA can be applied “anyway a district wants,” 7th district senator Jack Martins said, “while the other is used in a way the state can reimburse a district for certain expenses.”

FA ($3,703,599 last year) would be the same this year as reflected in the governors proposed budget and could possibly increase. Martins said that RA, money that districts can be paid back for, fluctuates because districts may or may not spend all funds designated as reimbursable.

“As it turns out, the amount that the school district gets in education, the amount for foundation aid, remains constant and we’re working to increase it,” Martins said. “The amount they get for reimbursable aid, that is expenses you’re being reimbursed by the state, went down, not because there was a cut, but because the school district itself hasn’t spent the money because you can’t reimburse someone for an expenditure that they didn’t have.”

Under the Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal, the district reportedly would lose $87,292, or a 1.97 percent decrease. Due to the loss of certain aid and other federal monies, specifically ARRA funding, the district is facing a loss of about $300,000 in revenue, or about .4 percent, according to district superintendent Michael Nagler.

“My concern is that there may be a perception that there has been a cut, but there hasn’t,” Martins stated.

Mineola received $5,025,082 in state aid last year. Preliminary state aid runs for 2012-2013 lists Mineola receiving $4,967,824, a $57,258 decrease.

The entire state saw cuts in education aid last year ($1.3 billion or about 6 percent). Nassau County’s school aid in 2010-2011 totaled at $815,053,277.

“The way the state aid works is there’s certain things the district gets reimbursed for,” Nagler said in a phone interview. “If we spend money in certain categories, we get a percent reimbursed.”

The county saw a $35.6 million decrease to $779,431,661 for 2011-2012. The estimated school aid in 2012-2013 for the county is currently $805,380,923.

Over the last 10 years, state aid has increased to 7th district schools by almost 51 percent.

The governor is proposing $250 million in competitive grants that will be distributed to school districts through a competitive process based on management efficiency and overall performance. “With districts trying to implement a tax cap, we should leave the gimmicks alone,” Martins said.

“[The governor] put 4 percent in the budget for an increase in state aid but before he divided the 4 percent he took $250 million out. So it’s not really 4 percent, it’s a little over 3 percent that he’s now dividing.”

Mineola Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jack Waters stated the district’s BOCES number is projected to decrease because “our budget currently reflects a decrease in what we spent last year in certain budget lines...so our expenditure is down, therefore the amount of money that we would get in aid would go down,” Waters said during a recent meeting at the Willis Avenue School.

“This is a matter of the percent of our aid that we get back,” Nagler stated. “So if we reduce our cost in transportation, which we did, we got less money. That’s the distinction that Senator Martins is making. It was not a cut in aid, but a reduction in reimbursement of aid.

“My retort to that is it really comes from the governor; it’s not the senator,” he continued. “The governor said districts were going to get a 4 percent increase. We didn’t get any increase. So if other places are getting increases, how are we in a negative?”

Some of BOCES is considered reimbursable aid, according to Martins. “I can’t tell you what the reimbursement aid is going to be because it’s a product of the school districts spending in those areas that they can be reimbursed for. It appears that they spent less in those areas last year, so they’re not going to receive as much. That’s not a cut. It’s just a reflection of the school district not spending as much as they had in the past. It’s a good thing but shouldn’t be interpreted as a state aid cut to local education.”

Nagler revealed last week during a tax levy presentation that the district could not exceed a 1.93 tax levy increase (approximately 1.4 million increase). The 2012-2013 tax levy could total $76.2 million.

A school district budget presentation is slated for March 1.