The New York State Board of Regents announced on Dec. 12 that it would be requesting a $1.6 billion increase in financial assistance from the federal government for the 2018-19 fiscal year— $0.5 billion less than year’s request.
Nassau and Suffolk counties already receive less state aid than the rest of New York, according to State Sen. John Brooks: 17 percent of the state’s students are enrolled on Long Island, while its schools only receive 12 percent of the state’s aid. Therefore, school districts have limited options when it comes to supplementing their budgets and mostly rely on property taxes.
Joseph Famularo, the superintendent of the Bellmore School District, and Senator Brooks are taking action to challenge this imbalance. “Over the years, we’ve gotten less [state aid] than any other area in the state, proportionally,” Famularo said, adding that he is lobbying the state senate for a greater slice of aid for Long Island.
Brooks said that a decrease in state aid would “be a major problem when we look at the new tax laws that are being proposed by the federal government,” with President Trump’s likely-to-pass tax bill capping property tax deductions at $10,000 per household. “Long Island is going to suffer,” Brooks added.
The Board of Regents acknowledged the pressure it has been under with the proposed federal tax bill. In an accompanying statement, Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who reports to the Board of Regents, said, “I do think that we have to take into account … the reality that the state is facing in terms of the budgets and finances that are available this year.”
Therefore, she continued, the recommendation includes the most costly challenges districts have been facing in recent years, such as providing for English-language learners and immigrant students.
Nevertheless, Brooks said that the proposal does consider Long Island. “We have a lot of work to do in Albany,” he added. “We’re going to be proposing some pretty major reforms and that’s the only way Long Island can survive.” Brooks would not go into detail about his plans, but said that he will be introducing them in the coming year.
The recommendation by the Board of Regents must be approved by the federal government before it can go into affect. Famularo said that he is confident the number will change.