Cuomo cuts will strip local schools of more than $1 million

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Another year, another governor proposing school aid cuts. And this time, it’s a biggie.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget cuts school aid by 7.3 percent statewide and 8.2 percent in Suffolk County.

The cuts in education, reportedly one of the largest proposed statewide cuts ever, are part of a plan to eliminate a $10 billion state deficit, according to Governor Cuomo.

Locally, school districts can expect to see the following cuts:

Mattituck-Cutchogue— 14.2 percent or $423,641

Southold  — 18.9 percent or $346,802

Greenport — 15.7 percent or $198,806

Oysterponds — 17.9 percent or $64,294

Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendent Jim McKenna said Wednesday that he has been warning his district that it would see at least a 10 percent cut in funding for next year.

“Was I shocked, no, but it was a little more severe than we’d like,” he said.

Mr. McKenna said that, while the numbers provided by Mr. Cuomo’s office Wednesday showed that Mattituck-Cutchogue would only receive $2.526 million next year — a 14.2 percent cut — his district business manager informed him that the district usually budgets more conservatively because they tend to actually receive “a couple hundred thousand dollars less” than initially proposed by the governor.

Mr. McKenna said that, between the state cuts and federal cuts, Mattituck-Cutchogue will likely receive about half a million dollars less than last year. He predicted at a school board meeting two months ago that the district could cut as many as ten employees as a result of the state and federal cuts, but said Wednesday that where those cuts might come from has not yet been determined. He said that the district plans to have a first draft of its 2011-12 budget, including cuts, by March 10.

“We’re looking for cuts that have a minimum impact on student services,” he said. “But people have to really understand that we’re getting a shellacking.”

What troubles Southold Superintendent David Gamberg is that the cuts are again based on a state aid formula determined by property wealth that doesn’t reflect actual wealth of taxpayers.

“The formula is flawed,” Mr. Gamberg said, noting that North Fork residents are hard hit by the Great Recession that has left many unemployed or under-employed, while also reducing the value of their property.

As for potential spending cuts, “Everything is being looked at up to and including personnel,” Mr. Gamberg said.

While the district is fully aware of the state’s financial difficulties, Mr. Gamberg said he had hoped that deep cuts in education funding would be coupled with relief from some mandates, but that has not been the case.

The potential loss in state aid comes as the Southold district anticipates d  a 30 percent hike in employee pension contributions.

The governor is proposing to cut school aid by $1.5 billion statewide, but says this represents only 2.9 percent of total school expenditures statewide. School aid is the largest state-supported program and represents 29 percent of the state’s general fund, the Governor said in his budget address.

To offset the cuts, Governor Cuomo is allowing $250 million statewide that would be allocated on a competitive basis to school districts that demonstrate significant improvement in student performance outcomes, and another $250 million to districts that undertake long-term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.