Additional school aid to help close budget gaps


North Fork school districts will be getting more money back from Albany next year, after state leaders passed a 2014-2015 budget Tuesday that will grant more than $265,000 than previously suggested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year.

In total, local schools are expected to receive a collective $6.1 million in state aid in the coming year — some of which will now help districts stay under a state-mandated tax levy cap and close budget gaps.

The Greenport School District is slated to receive $1.38 million — about $70,000 more than the governor’s proposal. The boost that will essentially close a looming shortfall school officials had been working to close.

Superintendent Michael Comanda has said exemptions approved by the state allow for a year-to-year tax levy increase of up to 2.8 percent in Greenport without the need for approval of the budget by a supermajority of district voters. Mr. Comanda had been working to prepare a spending plan that covers a gap of $70,000 above and was hopeful the state legislature would secure sufficient aid to cover the shortfall.

Another school district anticipating additional state aid to close a looming deficit was Mattituck-Cutchogue, now expected to receive about $2.68 million in state aid.

The district’s initial budget gap totaled $200,000, which Superintendent James McKenna proposed closing by cutting $60,000 for equipment and other purchases, putting off a $40,000 repair for the Laurel Annex and $25,000 for lab renovations at the High School.

With a shortfall of about $75,000, additional state aid announced on Tuesday — $89,704 to be exact — should help heal Mattituck-Cutchogue’s budget woes.

As for the remaining North Fork school districts, about $1.66 million has tentatively been secured for Southold — which represents about $71,000 more than Mr. Cuomo suggested — and Oysterponds is expected to receive about $380,000 in 2014-15, or $32,000 more than originally proposed.

State representatives have focused their efforts this year on restoring school aid lost by a budget adjustment formula known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, that has taken nearly $6.35 billion away from school districts since 2010.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said a major part of the $1.1 billion increase in school aid for New York public schools in 2014-15 is the restoration of $602 million in GEA.

“Superintendents in my district told me that their priority for this year’s budget was the reduction of the GEA — a budget-balancing fiasco imposed by the Democrats in 2010 when they controlled all three branches of government,” he said in a statement. “The state’s commitment to education is now well over $22 billion. This budget meets the needs of New York State’s children while, at the same time, providing property tax relief to residents who help underwrite the costs.”

The legislature’s tentative budget also includes a $2 billion bond proposal to improve broadband infrastructure, classroom technologies and construct pre-kindergarten classroom spaces, state officials said.

The proposed Smart School Bond Act would be placed on the November ballot for voter approval.

Other education initiatives listed in the tentative budget include: a $1.5 billion investment over five years to support a statewide universal full-day pre-kindergarten program; and a Teacher Excellence Fund to reward each teacher rated “highly effective” through a newly mandated evaluation process with a bonus of up to $20,000.

Here’s a comparison of the governor’s proposed budget and the tentative agreement, both comparing state aid projected in the 2014-15 to the current fiscal year. These figures include aid received for building projects.

Governor’s proposed budget: $1,308,554, up 2.88 percent.
Tentative agreement: $1,378,419, up 8.35 percent. Smart Schools allocation: $140,858.

Governor’s proposed budget: $2,586,303, up 2.60 percent.
Tentative agreement: $2,676,307, up 6.36 percent. Smart Schools allocation: $273,511.

Governor’s proposed budget: $346,516, up 2.18 percent.
Tentative agreement: $379,407, 11.72 percent. Smart Schools allocation: $39,910.

Governor’s proposed budget: $1,595,473, up 0.01 percent
Tentative agreement: $1,666,802, up 4.44 percent. Smart Schools allocation: $ 188,308.

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