Ford: Cuomo’s School Aid Cuts Unacceptable
Dear Island Park School District Resident:
As your County Legislator, I was outraged to learn that the state school aid for Island Park Schools will be cut 7% in Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget.
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?
Eighty-percent of the homes in Island Park were severely damaged by Sandy, with 1,000 homes losing their first floor living space, which means they must be re-built from the ground up. Like the school District, many families do not have sufficient coverage from insurance or FEMA money.
Rebuilding is not our only expense. Other expenses resulting from Sandy include transportation for students living within a fifty-mile radius of the school. Under the current state law, the district must transport students from as far east as Seldon, Long Island and as far west as Brooklyn-costing taxpayers an additional $40,000 a month since we were devastated by Sandy.
In his budget, 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, nor do they recognize how much our home values have plummeted in the aftermath of Sandy.
We are in a very precarious position. 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. 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.
I hope that you will join me and contact Governor Cuomo’s office to see that this inequity is corrected. Our legislators have promised to help us in this fight—it is one that we cannot and must not lose. Please call Governor Cuomo at (518) 474-8390 and tell him to change his school aid budget.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at 516 571 6204. Please get the word out to your neighbors so that we can all be united in this fight.
Legislator Denise Ford