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Minimal Rise In State Aid

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.

“State aid represents very little of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich (OBEN) Central School District’s revenue,” says Superintendent Dr. Laura Seinfeld. “However, in light of the tax levy limit and the low CPI, any and all state aid is helpful. “

Based on the preliminary budget figures, the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District will receive $39,632  more than last year, or a total of $2,266,255—an increase of 1.78 percent.

“Unfortunately, the governor’s proposed state aid for OBEN is in line with our expectations,” says Seinfeld. “Similar to other districts, we continue to experience a deduction for the state’s 'Gap Elimination Adjustment' (GEA). The governor’s proposal includes only a small increase for the 2014-15 GEA for our district, amounting to $10,000 in additional aid at this time.”  

State aid has become a major concern for the district 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.  

Seinfeld 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.

Still, Seinfeld says, “We remain committed to presenting a budget that preserves our outstanding programs and services as we strive to truly maximize each student’s personal potential for tomorrow’s world.”