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Plainview State Aid Barely Bumps

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.

“While we appreciate having a very tiny increase in state aid, this increase is nowhere near where we should be because of the loss in Gap Elimination adjustment to districts like us,” said Dr. Lorna Lewis, Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District Superintendent of Schools. “In the past three years we have lost over $6 million dollars.”

Based on the preliminary budget figures, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District will receive $287,654 more than last year, or a total of $14,931,654 — an increase of 1.93 percent.

“All of our units have entered into four year agreements that have frozen salary scales over that period. Without this agreement we would not be able to maintain our programs as State Aid has remained relatively flat for us,” said Lewis. “The Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District continues to receive less than our fair share of State Aid and that places an undue burden on our citizens to continue the level of excellence they have come to count on. The governor must think about restructuring the way State Aid is calculated.”

For Lewis, state aid has become a major concern since 2010, when Gov. Cuomo capped school district’s 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.

And Plainview’s Lewis is not alone in her criticism 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.

— with additional reporting by Steve Mosco