Farmingdale School District administrators are standing by their argument that the district is not receiving its fair share of state funding, after the New York State Legislature passed a state budget last week that appears to include an approximately $600,000 increase in aid for the district over last year.
In the budget the two houses of the legislature agreed upon, Farmingdale is slated to receive approximately $14,300,000 in aid for the 1998-99 school year. (As this newspaper went to press, the budget had not yet been approved by the governor.) However, the increase that Farmingdale received was primarily accounted for by funds it earned through purchasing classroom computers through Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), according to Dr. William J. Fanning, assistant superintendent for business for Farmingdale Schools.
In fact, he noted, approximately $500,000 of the $600,000 increase was earned through the purchases, which, through an agreement with the state, entitle the district to additional aid.
Fanning was also displeased that the legislature did not address transition adjustment, a complicated aid formula which adjusts the raw state aid formulas for districts. This, district administrators have noted, has affected some districts positively and others negatively, resulting in funding inequities. The transition adjustment, they added, has negatively affected Farmingdale every year for the past decade.
The legislature's 1998-99 budget includes an approximately $1.3 million transition adjustment, which directs a decrease in Farmingdale's raw state aid figure by that amount.
Negative transition adjustment was not addressed despite extensive lobbying - this year, as in past years - by district administrators, board of education members, PTA members and students.
Reacting to the aid figure announced by the legislature, Fanning said, "We have learned through the years that we should not have high confidence in what happens in Albany, because if we do, we'll be disappointed." However, he added, "I'm just glad it's not less."
Farmingdale Schools Superintendent Gerard W. Dempsey, Jr. had a similar reaction. "We're happy with the improvements, but more is needed," he said. He noted that he is pleased that the state aid figure is greater than that of last year. However, he added that he was disappointed that although the state was working with a budget surplus, Farmingdale Schools' state aid is still not back to what it was 10 years ago.
In addition, both Dempsey and Fanning noted that the RESCUE (REbuild SChools to Uphold Education) aid announced by the legislature will not be available for the 1998-99 school year. The legislature had announced that RESCUE would allocate a total of $500 million dollars for school construction throughout the state.
In a release to the press last week, Senator Charles J. Fuschillo of Merrick, one of the state lawmakers who represents Farmingdale, noted that the state budget included a record school aid increase of more than $950 million to schools, an 8.7 percent increase over last year. "I am extremely pleased that much of the surplus in this year's budget will be spent on our children's education," he said. "There would be no excuse not to direct these funds to our future's most important commodity - children."
The legislature has been criticized for risking debt growth through excessive spending in the $4 billion election-year budget - and more specifically - for proposing to spend most of last year's $2 billion surplus rather than using it to pay off existing debt.