Schools get stimulus aid, but not much

Four North Fork school districts, still awaiting word from Albany on whether they’ll see any promised state aid this year, recently learned that they will get a small boost from the federal government in the form of special stimulus aid.

Mattituck-Cutchogue will receive $80,154, the largest chunk of the federal money, which is being distributed on the North Fork to compensate for declining state support. The state education department is administering the federal funds and will also be sending $72,793 to Greenport, $59,334 to Southold and $24,784 to Oysterponds.

New Suffolk will get no state aid so, under the federal program, it will also receive no stimulus aid.

The stimulus aid resulted from one of two important pieces of legislation passed last month to help the national economy, according to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who announcing the awards to local districts.

One measure extended unemployment benefits and the second provided aid to the states to help them fund education programs, he said.

The House of Representatives passed the education funding bill three times, but the Senate kept defeating it, Mr. Bishop said, until Maine’s two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, changed their votes and supported the effort.

“I’m delighted that the money is going to flow to the local districts,” he said. Just a week earlier, Southold Superintendent David Gamberg had told his board that he didn’t yet know how the federal money was going to “trickle down to the districts.” But he said that with or without the aid, the district had planned its budget so there wouldn’t have to be cuts in educational programs in the 2010-11 school year.

The state still has not adopted a new budget and Gov. David Paterson has been handling spending resolutions month to month, leaving school districts wondering how much money they can expect this year. In the interim, as in past years, North Fork school boards have used the governor’s proposed budget, considered the most conservative, to guide their spending plans. But they have usually received more than the governor proposed as legislators added funding.

Because New York State is short of revenue this year, however, no local district expects to receive more than the governor proposed. Most entered the budgeting process cautiously, knowing that checks from the state could be slow to arrive — if they come at all.

Unlike some districts farther west on Long Island and upstate — where a sizable part of school budgets come from state and federal money — superintendents here remain cautiously optimistic that they’ll be able to get through the 2010-11 school year without cutting programs, no matter what the state does.

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