Districts across the state are holding their collective breath as they wait to find out the details of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s school aid proposal due out next week.
Huntington School Board members are ramping up for a string of meetings devoted in large part to development of the district’s 2017/18 budget. District executives are putting the finishing touches on a draft budget that will be released next month. Trustees will then take up the proposal and fine tune it before adopting the plan and submitting it to residents for a vote in May.
Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky addressed trustees on budgetary considerations for 2017/18 during a public meeting this past Monday. The presentation is available on the district website at www.joshuacarnes.info.
Mr. Polansky spoke in broad terms about budgetary matters including items that could have a positive impact on the financial plan and those that are negative. He also explained how Long Island districts and Huntington in particular are not getting their fair share of state school aid.
Items that could have a positive impact include:
• Huntington’s tax base growth factor is above average.
• There will be a reduction in costs associated with the Teachers’ Retirement System.
• The district has money in reserve that is available to cover some expenses.
• The district will be receiving money from the state’s Smart Schools Bond Act.
• The state’s foundation aid formula could be adjusted, which would benefit Huntington.
Items that could have a negative impact include:
• The increase in the Consumer Price Index is expected to be about 1.2 percent.
• The state’s revenue shortfall could limit an expected increase in school aid.
• Contractual salary and benefit cost increases.
• Increases in the cost of contracted services.
• Increases in the cost of state and federally mandated educational services.
• Increases in interest rates.
Mr. Polansky said that while Long Island enrolls 16.2 percent of the state’s students, districts collectively receive only 12.4 percent of the state’s overall school aid. “While the difference might seem small, it is actually quite a bit of money,” he added.
Between 2010 and 2016, state aid to Long Island districts was cut by more than $1.3 billion to cover state deficits. “The impact of this loss still lingers in compounded form,” Mr. Polansky said.
Trustees were told that state aid dollars don’t go as far on Long Island as they do in the rest of the state. “The purchasing power of $1,000 in the lowest cost regions (North Country and Mohawk Valley) is the equivalent of $702 on Long Island/New York City,” Mr. Polansky said.
Long Island districts, including Huntington continue to be shortchanged under the state’s Foundation Aid formula, which isn’t fully funded. “If the Foundation Aid formula had been fully funded, Long Island schools would have received an additional $5.2 billion in aid over the past 10 years,” Mr. Polansky said. “Long Island’s Foundation Aid as a percentage of total aid is 4.5 percent lower than that of the state as a whole.”
The Huntington School District is being hit hard by the lack of a fully funded Foundation Aid formula. “In 2016/17, Huntington received just short of $8.5 million, but if the formula was fully funded, we would have received $17.8 million,” Mr. Polansky said.
During the next public meeting of the Huntington School Board on Monday, February 6, Mr. Polansky will make a presentation on the district’s tax levy limit for 2017/18. The draft budget will be discussed in public for the first time on Monday, February 27. Both meetings will be held in the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School auditorium at 7:30 p.m.