North Shore schools could see small boost in state aid

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North Shore schools could see small boost in state aid
Great Neck North High School is seen on a warmer fall day. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $1.74 million boost in state operating aid for North Shore schools, according to budget numbers released by the governor’s budget office, a roughly 1.99 percent increase from $87,440,757 to $89,181,026.

If the proposed aid were to pass unchanged, this $1.74 million would be a small portion of the $26.35 million boost in state aid to Nassau County schools, which get more than $1 billion each year. It is also below the rate of increase for Nassau County and Long Island overall, which would see 2.61 and 2.3 percent boosts, respectively.

Overall, Cuomo proposed a $769 million increase in school aid statewide, or 3 percent.

But for some North Shore schools, it might not be enough.

Michael Borges, the executive director of the New York State Association of School Business Officials, said that school districts feel the pressure of the state tax cap and a rising number of high needs students, and will likely feel the brunt of the federal tax ovehaul bill next year as people might vote down school budgets.

Consequently, he said, an increase in state aid can help offset these pressures for both “high need school districts” – meaning state aid is required to fund more of their operations – and “low need school districts” like ones on the North Shore.

“The governor has proposed a 3 percent increase in state aid, which, given the circumstances, is understandable,” Borges said, “but not adequate based on needs.”

The Manhasset school district is getting a small increase in operating aid – from $4.5 million to $4.52 million, or 0.61 percent. But Rosemary Johnson, the district’s deputy superintendent for business, said the schools are ultimately getting $2,000 less than the previous year in state aid overall because of delayed building aid.

Additionally, Johnson said, the district has very little wiggle room with the budget and, like many other districts, faces pressures from constitutionally mandated pension costs.

“Our overall state aid is about $4,845,000 for 2017 to 2018 and our overall budget is $93,891,000,” Johnson said. “But every dollar of state aid is important to us because we’re so tight, especially in this year where you have pension benefits going up 10 percent. The impact of those benefits alone is significant.”

“It’s devastating,” Johnson added. “There’s no cushion for districts and other municipalities from other things like that.”

Roslyn Public Schools will see the biggest decrease in state operating aid in the area if the governor’s proposal remains unchanged, going down $112,969 from $5.36 million to $5.25 million, or 2.11 percent.

Joseph Dragone, assistant superintendent for business at the Roslyn schools, said that part of the decrease in operating aid stemmed from seeking more cost-efficient programs. Of the $112,969 decrease, though, about $50,000 is being lost in transportation aid – even though the district offers its bus fleet to surrounding school districts.

“This is a very frustrating one for me,” Dragone said.

But Dragone noted that when factoring in partial reimbursements for building projects like brickwork and building additions, the district would technically get more money from the state.

“Roslyn is getting a reduction in what I call unfettered aid – the aid that we can use anyway we like,” Dragone said. “We are getting an increase in overall aid because building aid has increased significantly.”

Sewanhaka, meanwhile, would see its state aid rise $626,056 from $34.04 million to $34.67 million, a 1.84 percent increase. It would be the largest North Shore increase in raw numbers.

State operating aid made up about 17.63 percent of the district’s $193.07 million budget.

In terms of percentage, the Port Washington schools would get the largest increase, worth 4.73 percent. This translates to a $396,849 rise from $8.38 million to $8.78 million in state aid.

The Port Washington school district’s budget for 2017-18 is $151.2 million, meaning state operating aid has made up about 5.5 percent of the budget.

East Williston school district’s state operating aid would go up 3.95 percent from $3.29 million to $3.42 million, an increase of $130,125.

The district’s budget for 2017-18 is $58.29 million, with state operating aid making up about 5.6 percent.

Great Neck Public Schools would see state operating aid rise from about $9.28 million to $9.58 million, an increase of $299,951, or 3.23 percent.

Based on the budget office’s numbers, state operating aid made up 4.15 percent of Great Neck’s $223.3 million budget.

Herricks Union Free School District would see state operating aid rise from $10.65 million to $10.87 million, a 2.07 percent increase worth $221,014.

State operating aid made up 9.58 percent of the district’s $111.2 million budget, numbers from the governor’s budget office show.

Mineola Union Free School District would see its state aid rise $123,150, or 1.86 percent, from $6.62 million to $6.74 million.

Based on the budget office’s numbers, state operating aid made up about 7.01 percent of the school’s $94.44 million budget.

New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Union Free School District, which currently receives $5.28 million in operating aid, would see a 0.54 percent increase, or $28,463, to $5.31 million.

The state operating aid makes up about 13.82 percent of the district’s $38.21 million budget, according to the governor’s budget office.

These numbers exclude building aid because building projects schools embark on vary widely and the aid does not go directly toward day-to-day operations.

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