Lynbrook and East Rockaway village officials are pushing back against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to slash state aid to villages. The plan was included in Cuomo’s 2019-20 budget, proposed on Jan. 15.
Under the plan, the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities Program, a form of state aid, would be cut for any village that used the funds to cover less than 2 percent of its ex-penditures in 2017.
Lynbrook stands to lose about $230,000 under the proposal, and officials would have to raise the tax levy by 0.5 percent to make up for the lost revenue. East Rockaway also relies on the state aid as a revenue source, and would lose $194,855 under Cuomo’s plan, forcing the village to raise the tax levy above the state-mandated 2 percent limit.
Cuomo’s announcement came after Lynbrook Mayor Alan Beach promised at a Jan. 12 campaign rally that he would not raise property taxes if he were re-elected. He is running against Deputy Mayor Hilary Becker in the March 19 village election.
Lynbrook and East Rockaway village officials have submitted letters to their state legislators, asking them to reject the governor’s proposal. Lynbrook officials said that Cuomo’s plan fails to take into ac-count that the village has its own police and parks departments and library. Its population is small, and the village is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy and paying for state mandates.
“It penalizes villages that provide more services,” Lynbrook Village Clerk John Giordano said.
Giordano suggested that state officials adjust the formula to compensate for villages with higher levels of services, or that villages appeal the state’s decision in court.
East Rockaway Mayor Bruno Romano said that he and village board members were “outraged” by the governor’s proposal. He said that East Rockaway has not received an increase in AIM funding in the last 10 years, and the village relies on the funding to help cover increasing retirement and insurance costs. The village also provides an array of services, including fire, police, garbage, road maintenance, street lighting, construction, inspections, zoning, parking lots and code enforcement.
“East Rockaway is the government closest to the people, [the] most efficient provider of services and [the] most responsive to our residents’ needs,” Romano said in a statement. “We will continue to fight to have this funding restored in the 2020 budgetary year.”
State budget negotiations are ongoing, and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, a Democrat from Rockville Centre, said she would advocate for increased state aid for villages. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, also said that restoring the aid would be a “top priority.”
Meanwhile, school districts across the state are set to receive more aid under Cuomo’s proposed budget.
According to the State Education Department, the Lynbrook School District is to receive $728,169 more in state aid for the 2019-20 school year than it did in the current year, and the East Rockaway School District is to receive $169,298 more next year. Those numbers are preliminary, however, and might fluctuate when state officials approve a final budget in March.
Both Lynbrook Schools Superintendent Dr. Melissa Burak and East Rockaway Superintendent Lisa Ruiz said they would be grateful for any increase in state aid and the relief it would bring to taxpayers.
Griffin said she had spoken with mayors and school superintendents throughout her district, and she believed they understood that the governor’s proposed spending plan is “a starting point” in state budget negotiations.