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Budget Relief for Local Districts

More Monies for Massapequa, Plainedge, Wantagh, and Seaford Schools

The Massapequa School District is a big winner in the decision by New York Gov. David Paterson to release monies in school aid and STAR payments.

The governor released the monies earlier this year after being the target of a lawsuit filed in December by a coalition of citizen taxpayer groups and education advocates.

According to the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA), the Massapequa district will receive $3,078,482 in aid. The Plainedge district will be the beneficiary of an additional $1,656,053. Other districts in the Massapequa area will also pick up an additional $1 million or more aid. The Wantagh district will receive $1,275,358 in aid, while Seaford’s total in additional monies is $1,065,131.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 16, 2009 in state Supreme Court in Albany County. Those organizations that were signature to the lawsuit included the New York State United Teachers, the New York State School Boards Association, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, and the School Administrators Association of New York State. According to the NYSSBA, other organizations, including the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the New York State Association of School Business Officials and the state PTA, signaled their “strong support” for the legal action.

The NYSSBA claimed that the governor “acted illegally and unconstitutionally by withholding state funds allocated by the state Legislature for school districts.” The organization also expressed concern over possible employee layoffs, elimination policies, and property tax increases that might be the result of withholding the state funds.

“School districts cannot provide educational programs to students in an unpredictable and chaotic funding environment,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer when the lawsuit was first filed. “The governor’s unilateral midyear cut to schools has already created havoc and uncertainty in many districts, as they study their options – all of which have adverse consequences for taxpayers. We are deeply concerned about the governor’s action to withhold or delay payments to schools in the future. School boards are bracing themselves for the tough fiscal challenges that lie ahead, when federal stimulus funds expire and costs continue to skyrocket. What we expect of our leaders is long-term financial planning and greater fiscal certainty, not chaos and doubt.”

In addition to the governor, other defendants in the lawsuit were the NYS Division of Budget, Budget Director Robert L. Megna, and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

After the governor relented on the funding monies, Kremer expressed satisfaction, while also being concerned over any similar action in the future.

“We are pleased that Governor Paterson is restoring the full portion of the payments to school districts that he has withheld,” Kremer said. “While securing appropriate funding for schools is certainly a critical component of our lawsuit, we remain concerned about the governor’s viewpoint that he has the ability to delay payments in the future – even against the will of the Legislature. Needless to say, this type of action causes chaos and disruption to school districts throughout the state.”