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State Aid Sees Slight Bump

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $137 billion spending plan will increase education aid by $807 million for the 2014-15 school year, but school officials say it will still put them up against the wall. Based on the preliminary budget figures, the Garden City School District will receive $91,724 more than last year, or a total of $4,517,020—an increase of 2.07 percent.

While every bit of monetary assistance from the state helps, state mandated costs have essentially remained the same, while cost of living has increased. It's a factor  School Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen feels this amount of aid fails to address.  

“We are greatly disappointed with the governor’s budget proposal. It once again fails to recognize the high cost of living on Long Island or offer any significant relief from mandates," he explained.  "In addition, the budget proposal fails to restore Garden City’s state aid to the level it received in 2008-09.  Combined with the anticipated low tax levy cap for the coming year, the budget proposal, if enacted, will make it much more difficult to sustain the programs that have made Garden City a leading school district in the country."   

Pensions and health care are among the state mandated costs the district has to contend with. And while the Garden City Teachers Association renegotiated its contract two years ago, there are other expenses that the district has to contend with.

“We’re being demanded by the state to move online testing for our students, which requires tremendous infrastructure changes and purchases and acquisitions of technology,” Feirsen explained last year.

A technology task force that was formed in the last year and made up of a few dozen faculty members, students and residents recently gave the results of a report urging the need for expenditures for new laptops/tablets, staff development and wireless licensing.

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.  These fiduciary shortcomings are something Feirsen hopes to get help addressing from local politicians.

"We hope that our representatives in the Legislature in Albany will recognize the fiscal stresses experienced by Garden City and all other Long Island school districts and then make significant adjustments to the Governor’s aid figures," he said.

Dave Gil de Rubio contributed to this story