Riverhead schools could lose $2.9 million under governor’s plan

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Another year, another governor proposing school aid cuts.

And this time, it’s a biggie.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing 7.3 percent cuts to school aid statewide and 8.2 percent in Suffolk County.

The cuts in education, reportedly one of the largest proposed statewide cuts ever, are part of a plan to eliminate a $10 billion state deficit, according to the governor.

Locally, the Riverhead School District is slated to receive a cut of 16 percent, or $2.9 million, under the governor’s plan. That cut amounts to about 2.7 percent of the district’s budget, which is currently at $108 million.”This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney. She said that while governors traditionally propose steeper cuts than what ends up being approved in the final state budget, the district still has to plan is budget based on the governor’s numbers unless it gets other information.

She said she’s already presented a draft 2011-12 budget to the school board that included cuts and brought the proposed spending increase to three percent. Had the budget simply rolled over all existing costs, and factored in cost of living increases and increases in contractual issues like salaries, the increase would have been around seven percent.

Now, she said, the district will have to make further cuts in addition to the cuts that brought the draft budget increase to three percent.

“It’s totally not what we were expecting,” Ms. Carney said. “We thought we might lose five percent of our state aid. We’re losing about 16 percent of our state aid. It’s huge.”

Riverhead’s first budget review work session will be on Feb. 8, she said.

“The loss of state aid alone would increase the budget by about three percent,” she said. “Just the mandates and the loss of revenues is a significant increase in the tax levy. You can’t have the staffing and the programs that you’ve become accustomed to with what’s occurring.”

In the Shoreham-Wading River school district, the proposed cut is 11.6 percent, including building aid cuts, or $985,326.

The governor is proposing to cut school aid by $1.5 billion, but says this represents only 2.9 percent of total school expenditures statewide. School aid is the largest state-supported program and represents 29 percent of the state’s general fund, the Governor said in his budget address.

To offset the cuts, Governor Cuomo said $250 million statewide will be allocated on a competitive basis to school districts that demonstrate significant improvement in student performance outcomes, and another $250 million to districts that undertake long-term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

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