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Wednesday, October 1, 2014
State school aid restored
State legislators block cut in high tax help
Howard Schwach

The State Legislature passed a budget last week that was good news for Nassau County school districts, including Oceanside and Island Park.

“It’s a real win for Long Island,” Senate Majority Coalition Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said as he was leaving the Senate chamber after the vote.

Skelos said that lawmakers added $58 million more in operating funds for Long Island schools than Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his budget message in January, and blocked a Cuomo proposal to reduce critical “high tax aid” for most county schools.

The restored money brought Long Island’s share of school aid to 12.96 percent, Skelos said, about what it has traditionally been over the years.

Budget documents supplied by Albany show that Oceanside schools received $15.9 million in state aid for this school year. In January, Cuomo announced cuts that would have reduced that aid next year by almost $760,000, to $15.1 million. The budget OK’d last week, however, will give Oceanside $16.6 million, a 4.5 percent increase over the current year.

Likewise, the Island Park schools received $1.8 million in school aid this year. Cuomo’s January budget cut that by just over $127,000, to $1.69 million. But the spending plan that was approved last week gives Island Park $1.9 million, a 4.31 percent increase over this year.

Local elected officials were quick to take credit for the good news.

“Thanks to our work, Oceanside public schools will see substantial gains in state aid,” said Assemblyman Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook). “This will help [educate] our children for the future. Long Island schools were facing an incredibly unfair and biased reduction in high-tax and building aid in the governor’s initial proposal. I fought hard to reverse that, alongside my Senate colleague, Sen. Dean Skelos, and Assembly colleague, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg … The state high tax aid that the governor wanted to be taken away from our children — which would have resulted in higher school property taxes to make up for the shortfall — has been fully restored, and building aid has been increased thanks to our efforts. We got back the money that our taxpayers and schools deserve — not a dollar more or a dollar less, just our fair share.”

School officials in Oceanside and Island Park had been away for the school holiday, and were reluctant to talk about what the new numbers might mean for their budgets at press time on Monday, but Oceanside Superintendent Herb Brown said in January that he was unhappy because the governor had promised a 3 to 4 percent increase in state aid across the board and had not kept that promise.

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