O’side, I.P. schools feel state budget ax

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County Legislator Denise Ford also responded angrily to the governor’s proposal. In a letter to parents, she wrote, “After the devastation we all suffered from Hurricane Sandy, our schools are barely operational. One building remains closed for repairs for the next nine months. The other, which previously housed 325 students, now has 730 and is overcrowded. Our village was devastated. The public library building that the district also owns suffered severe damage and is not operational. All in all, we estimate the damage to the buildings to be $4.5 million, with only $3.5 million covered by insurance and FEMA — leaving a minimum of $1 million in financial burden for taxpayers (possibly more when a final damage assessment is complete). How can they possible afford this?

“In his budget,” Ford continued, “Governor Cuomo proposed to increase overall school aid statewide by 3%, yet aid to Island Park is being cut 7%, more than any other district on Long Island. In addition, schools in communities similar to ours have seen their state aid increase by as much as 8%.

“These state formulas do not take into account the economic and income status of the Village of Island Park,” she added, “nor do they recognize how much our home values have plummeted in the aftermath of Sandy.

“We are in a very precarious position,” Ford wrote. “Island Park Superintendent Dr. Rosmarie Bovino has indicated to me that the loss of this aid, $127,196 in total, will in fact be even greater when property tax assessments are reduced as a result of Sandy and thus, property tax revenues will plummet.

“This unfair reduction in state aid is based on nothing more than an antiquated formula that needs to be reexamined,” Ford concluded. “I am calling on Governor Cuomo to immediately restore aid to Island Park Schools AND develop a new calculation for transportation aid that will compensate the district for the monies spent on students displaced by Sandy and living in outlying communities. I have contacted both Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg who have assured me that they will join me in our fight to obtain fairness for our school district.”

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