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Feb 15, 2011 5:08 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

School Districts Facing Drastic State Aid Cuts Next Year

Feb 15, 2011 5:08 PM

School districts in New York are facing large cuts in state aid for the second consecutive year, and some legislators are charging that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget is unfair, leaving schools on Long Island—and in particular on the East End—to absorb the bulk of the reductions.

The $1.54 billion statewide reduction that Governor Cuomo is proposing averages to about an 11-percent cut to Long Island as a whole—though it translates into an even sharper 14- to 15-percent cut for the easternmost school districts on the island, according to State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

While he said there’s no way to avoid massive cuts to education next year, as Albany tries to trim a whopping $10 billion deficit, Mr. Thiele noted that Long Island’s share of cuts is disproportionately higher than other regions of the state. Under his current plan, the governor’s state aid projections for the 2011-12 school year will reduce overall aid to New York City by about 6 percent, while the rest of the state will see about 8 percent less aid, according to Mr. Thiele.

“We’re saying each geographic region should get cut the same percentage,” Mr. Thiele said. “The governor is basically saying, ‘We view Long Island as a richer area, and you can afford a bigger cut.’ We’re not buying that.”

State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle wrote in an e-mail that while times are tough no region should have to shoulder an unfair burden of cuts. A delegation of nine Republican state senators from Long Island will aim to make sure that doesn’t happen, he said.

“As in the past, the Long Island Senate delegation will work together to ensure Long Island schools are not being asked to underwrite cuts in education for other areas of the state,” Mr. LaValle wrote in an e-mail. 
“We will ensure that Long 
Island is treated fairly and equitably within the budget footprint.”

Some local school district officials have already weighed in on the cuts, the impacts of which vary across eastern Suffolk County. At Eastport South Manor, a district that educates an estimated 1,000 students, its state aid would be reduced by about $1.8 million, or about 8.6 percent, next year. Such a 
drastic cut could force the district, which employs approximately 600 people, to reduce staffing.

“We’ve pulled out every single cost-saving measure we have,” said Eastport South Manor’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Richard Snyder. “We’re out of them.”

As for the disproportional cuts to Long Island schools, Mr. Snyder said those are nothing new. A combined wealth ratio formula, which is a calculation based on income levels and property values of a community, is used to determine how much of a cut a district can absorb. If that ratio falls under 1.0, or the average, then that district is considered to be less wealthy, according to Mr. Snyder.

He pointed out that even though his district’s combined wealth ratio is around 0.83, state aid is still being slashed by about 8.6 percent. He said that figure is higher than the average reduction of 5 percent that is being seen at most school districts.

“Long Island is disproportionately cut when cuts are being made, and we get disproportional increases when increases are being made,” he said. “We either get too little or get cut too much.”

Southampton School Superintendent Dr. Richard Boyes said that while his district would 
lose about $375,000 in aid under the governor’s budget proposal, it does not get much financial aid from Albany to begin 
with. A little less than 5 percent of the district’s $57.2 million budget is financed with state aid, he said.

Dr. Boyes said he’s more concerned with a tax cap proposal that’s been approved in the State Senate, which would restrict the amount of local tax money—via property taxes—that school districts would be able to collect each year to an increase of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. If enacted, the cap would take effect during the 2012-13 school year. Just under 80 percent of his district’s expenses are financed through 
the local property tax levy, he said.

Westhampton Beach School District would stand to lose about $208,000 due to the proposed cuts. Westhampton Beach Superintendent of Schools Lynn Schwartz said it is premature at this point to say what would be cut in his district. About 4.5 percent of the district’s $49 million 2010-11 budget, he said, is financed with state aid. He also pointed out that the district could draw from its unrestricted, unreserved fund balance, which now stands at $1.9 million, to help offset an increase in the tax levy resulting from the cut.

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Look at the cost per student in these districts and you don't need to go any further. NYS has the highest cost per student in the country and some of these districts spend between 50 to 150 percent more than the average. The mismanagement can be tied directly to those in charge, administrators whose only concern is keeping the staus quo, when times are tough they cry about cutting programs and hurting the childred. They only care about benefits and pensions that are so generous that people in the ...more
By maxwell (169), speonk on Feb 16, 11 1:46 PM