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Schools Facing Possible Cuts in State Aid

New York State Governor David Paterson unveiled a two-year, $5 billion deficit reduction plan that he believes would eliminate the state’s current-year budget gap without raising taxes, as well as institute major structural reforms. However, part of the plan includes a decrease in state aid that is filtered down to local school districts including those in Nassau County. Such a decrease in school aid could find school taxes, which are already the largest part of a property owner’s property tax bill, escalating ever higher.

According to a press release from the Governor ‘s office, school aid for 2009-2010 was projected to total $21.9 billion, an increase of $415 million or 1.9 percent from the 2008-2009 school year. However, the deficit reduction plan calls for an increase of $271 million or 1.3 percent from 2008-2009.

Adjustments have been projected for school districts in the state on the amount of aid school districts would lose for the 2009-2010 school year based on the efforts to reduce the budget gap.

The Elmont School District stands to lose $1,118,473 while the Franklin Square School District stands to lose $391,951; the West Hempstead School District stands to lose $529,425.

Republican Assemblyman Tom Alfano, who represents those communities, isn’t ready to go along with such school aid cuts to close the budget gap.

“Cutting school aid isn’t just a non-starter, it’s laughable. First, the state budget cut our regional share of education aid to our schools. Many of us stood up and said ‘no’ to this total attack on education funding. We could have stopped it right there and then, but some voted for it. Now, the governor and his allies are ready to take a whack at our schools again. It’s not only unfair, but it’s a slap in the face to taxpayers. Who’s left holding the bill again- seniors and working families? How about cutting the pork to the tune of a couple billion dollars? How about promoting economic development and creating jobs? How about consolidating state agencies and services? When you cut school aid, you not only hurt the children in the classroom, but you’re adding to the tax woes of families who can’t take anymore. Enough is enough. The people have had enough of the cuts to our schools and hospitals,” Alfano said.

Democratic Senator Craig Johnson, who also represents those communities, also opposes mid-year school cuts. “There is no doubt that budget cuts have to be made now and structural changes need
 to be achieved in preparation for when federal stimulus funds dry up in the 2011-2012 budget,” he said. “However, these mid-stream reductions cannot be made on the backs of Long Island taxpayers. We are committed to working with our partners in government to ensure that this deficit is reduced in a way that is fair and equitable to residents across New York State.”

Governor Paterson believes the projected budget deficit has to be addressed, saying in a press release, “The fiscal challenge we must address is clear and undeniable. Revenues have continued to plummet below already conservative projections and immediate action is needed to restore the fiscal integrity of our state budget. Delaying the tough choices we must inevitably make will do nothing besides make those choices more difficult.”