When Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his proposed budget in January, local educators were unhappy with the amount of state aid their districts would receive. Now, after the State Senate and Assembly adopted the state budget last week, those same educators are relieved.
The East Rockaway School District, which under Cuomo’s initial proposal would have seen its aid cut by more than $250,000, will now receive an increase of more than $200,000. In Lynbrook, state aid was slated to increase by just over $182,000 in January, and that number now rises to about $485,000 under the adopted budget.
The jump in state funding for both districts is due in large part to the restoration of “high tax” aid, which the state traditionally gives to districts with higher costs and property tax rates. Lynbrook’s high tax aid increased by more than $275,000 while East Rockaway’s rose more than $400,000.
“We’re very pleased,” said Marcy Tannenbaum, East Rockaway’s director of finance operations. “The restoration of the high tax aid was very important for this district.”
Tannenbaum said the East Rockaway administration was hopeful that the high tax aid would be restored, but didn’t count on anything until the official numbers came in. “I certainly would not run to the bank or balance the budget until I was confident that that was going to be restored,” she said.
In order to stay within its maximum allowable tax levy of 3.43 percent, East Rockaway still has to cut more than $800,000 from the budget, Tannenbaum said. It has removed classroom computers from the spending plan, and they will now be funded by the district’s technology reserves. There were plans to replace an old truck that has a dumpster and plow capabilities; instead, the district funded the new truck with grants. These measures, along with three employee retirements and the increase in state aid, have helped close the gap, Tannenbaum said.
“It’s not any one big thing that we used to help balance the budget,” she said. “We looked all over the place, and wherever we found an area we were able to make a change or modification, we did it, and little by little we were able to get it down to a manageable number, and then we waited [for the state budget].”