Governor Proposes $26 Million in School Aid to Massapequa

New York state will give more than $26 million in state aid to the Massapequa School District under Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget, but school officials say the aid package could hamstring their ability to fund programs.

The proposed $26.1 million would be about a $370,000 increase over the $25.7 million that Massapequa received for the current school year or a 1.44 percent increase.

But Massapequa Deputy Superintendent Alan Adcock said Wednesday that one cut in the governor’s proposal will make it difficult for the district.

“What appears to be a small increase in state aid is actually a significant decrease,” Adcock said.

Adcock said that the district has discretion over $15.2 million in state foundation aid as well as funds known as high tax aid, which the states give to mostly downstate areas that deal with higher costs than regions of the state where costs aren’t as high.

Massapequa will receive about $670,000 in High Tax Aid under Cuomo’s proposal. That’s down from more than $2 million the district received this year.

Adcock said this is important for the district because foundation aid was frozen and was not increased from the current year, while other categories of aid in the governor’s proposal require districts to spend money for specific programs in order to keep the aid. Foundation and High Tax Aid allow the district more descretion over how the funds are used.

“Massapequa received an reduction of $1.4 million,that’s a problem,” Adcock said of the cut in high tax aid. At a recent Board of Education meeting, Adcock said he believes the district will face at least a $3.5 budget deficit.

The Deputy superintendent also contended that it isn’t just a problem in Massapequa, saying that high tax aid has been cut county-wide from just under $56 million for the current year to a proposed $36 million for the 2013-14 school year.

“This is a very poor state aid package for Nassau County,” he said.

Another person who felt the district was not getting their fair share of aid was Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna, who expressed concerns about the growing tax burden to area residents.

Altadonna pointed out that nearby areas such as Amityville, Copiague and Lindenhurst received more aid. Neighboring Amityville received a 6.2 percent hike in the governor’s proposal.

Altadonna said he was going to try to reach out to the governor’s office to send the message that the area can’t afford the extra tax burden in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“The governor needs to understand the severity of the destruction that was here,
Altadonna said.

Earlier in the day, a group of Long Island educators, parents and activists from the group Educacte New York Now gathered at the Massapequa offices of the Long Island Progressive Coalition to express their concerns about the governor’s proposal.

“We commend the Governor for acknowledging the importance and the need for investing in quality early childhood programs starting with full day Pre-K for our neediest children. However, there is an education crisis in New York, and if the state does not take more steps the crisis will only worsen,” said Danielle Asher lead organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the Alliance for Quality Education.

The organization contends that theGovernor’s proposed 4.4 percent statewide increase in education funding won’t be enough to stop more classroom cuts.

Among those who spoke at the meeting was Tomia Smith, a teacher in the Massapequa District.

“I come from a rural area in Kentucky and I know first-hand the damage an under-funded educational system can do to its community,” she said.  “I do not want to see Long Island head in that direction,”

The Massapequa school board holds their first public budget discussion on February 7.