"School Aid Runs" From Albany Show Record Increase In State Aid; Percentage Aid To Long Island Districts Versus Upstate Tells Real Story
The State Legislature has passed an on-time budget for the second year in a row, a budget that includes record school aid to most Long Island districts. [Click HERE to see School Aid Runs.]
While almost every district on the island will -- barring the Governor's veto -- see an increase in dollars from Albany, what we don't see, from the School Aid Runs or otherwise, are the actual percentages of State Aid as against the proposed budget figures.
So, for example, take a Long Island (Nassau County) school district* that has a budget of, say, $48,000,000, with the State kicking in $6,400,000, according to the recently released School Aid Runs. The State's "share" in covering that budget is approximately 13%. That leaves the local taxpayer (read as, "property owner") to pick up the remaining $39,000,000, or 86% of the proposed budget.
Then, consider an upstate (Jefferson County) school district** with a budget of $18,500,000, that gets State Aid of $11,300,000. The State will pick up 61% of the tab, while the local property owner has to carry the other 39% -- and of a much smaller budget.
Of course, this is an oversimplification of the confusing and archaic State Aid formulae in action. Legislators and upstate school administrators alike will caution us to compare apples to apples; the Regional CPI for our Long Island is greater than for Jefferson County, just shy of the Canadian border. The cost of living is much higher on Long Island in comparison to Jefferson County. The State Aid formulae consider the wealth of the school district, in terms of the value of the property and the wealth of the taxpayers as defined by their income tax returns -- both of which, on paper, make Long Island school districts appear to be more "wealthy" than school districts in Jefferson County.
So here we are -- house rich (or "wealthy," if you prefer) and frighteningly cash poor. And isn't there something terribly backward about a system of distribution that gives more money to districts that have lower building costs, operating costs, and living costs? If it costs more to live in Nassau County than it does in Jefferson County -- and, correspondingly, more to operate our schools -- shouldn't Long Island school districts be getting more, rather than less, of the State Aid pie?
Okay. The State Aid formulae defy logic. So let's simply reduce this to the least common denominator. The only State Aid formula that really matters.
Take the dollar amount your school district is getting in State Aid from the School Aid Runs. Divide that by your district's proposed 2006-07 school budget. The resulting figure is the percentage of the total school budget covered by State Aid.
If the State is giving your school district anything less that the 61% allocated to the General Brown school district in upstate Jefferson County, your children are being shortchanged!
*West Hempstead Union Free School District, Nassau County
**General Brown Central School District, Jefferson County