Written by Ronald Scaglia, Rscaglia@antonnews.com Friday, 05 April 2013 00:00
While the news could always be better, the state budget passed last week includes significantly more school aid for Massapequa than had been proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The district will now receive an increase of $1,6 million, or 6.24 percent.
“Education has always been, and continues to be, one of my highest priorities as a legislator, and this year is no exception,” said State Sen. Kemp Hannon, who helped restore the school funding. “I was successful in securing $58 million in operating aid for Long Island schools above what the governor proposed in January.”
One of the biggest issues that local lawmakers had with Cuomo’s proposed budget was the elimination of High Tax Aid, which was created to help ease the burden of suburban districts where the property tax burden is high relative to incomes. The governor had proposed removing $50 million in high tax aid from this year’s budget, $37 million of which would have been from Long Island districts. However, the adopted budget restores $44 million in High Tax Aid according to State Senator Charles Fuschillo.
“Fighting to restore the governor’s cuts in school aid to Massapequa and Farmingdale, as well as Long Island Schools, was a priority during the budget negotiations,” said Fuschillo. “The governor’s proposed cuts would have been devastating to both of the school districts. The approved state budget restored much need funding to the Massapequa and Farmingdale School Districts. Each school district will receive more than $27 million in state education aid. I am pleased that we were able to deliver the increase in state aid to the Massapequa and Farmingdale School Districts.”
Assemblyman Tom McKevitt is pleased with the restoration of school aid and concurred that the governor’s proposed budget would have devastated local districts, including Massapequa. He called it a “great positive,” that school aid was restored.
“While our state faces many economic challenges, preparing our young people for the future is always of paramount importance,” said McKevitt. “For this reason, I am pleased that school aid funding to the students of Long Island has been increased, and the complete restoration of high tax aid.”
McKevitt added that he fought for the restoration of aid, not only for this year’s budget but for future budgets as well. He said that if money had been cut to local districts such as Massapequa, it would create a lower starting point, when budget discussions begin next year.
McKevitt adds that it is always a challenge to get Long Island districts a fair share of school aid. He said that local lawmakers are always battling their colleagues in Albany, who are also trying to bring home a larger share of school aid funds to their districts and if a significant and disproportionate cut this year was allowed, it would have made the efforts of local lawmakers that much tougher in the future.
“To this day, my colleagues upstate say that we are rich,” remarked McKevitt. “It is something that I have to fight every day.”
However, while McKevitt was happy about the restoration of school aid, he is disappointed in a cut of $90 million for the developmentally disabled. In the governor’s executive budget proposal, Cuomo proposed $120 million in cuts to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). During the budget negotiations, $30 million of the proposed $120 million in cuts was restored. McKevitt said that he and other Republicans in the State Assembly called for a complete restoration of funding. An amendment to restore the $90 million was voted down on the Assembly floor.
“We have failed to provide for the most needy among us,” said McKevitt. “The cuts to non-profits who serve our developmental disabled will have a damaging effect. We must amend this budget and restore full funding for our developmentally disabled and their families.”