School Supe wants face-off with Cuomo: State cuts unacceptable

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Shelter Island Superintendent Michael Hynes plans to take his argument against projected state aid cuts directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Shelter Island Superintendent Michael Hynes plans to take his argument against projected state aid cuts directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Shelter Island School Superintendent Michael Hynes said he’s mad as hell and not about to accept projected state aid cuts he believes would cripple his district.

In fact, he’s asking for a meeting with Governor Andrew Cuomo to get answers why his district is among the top four in the state to suffer a substantial cut if the numbers hold firm.

If Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal remains unchanged, the district would lose 17.1 percent of the $486,263 it got for the current school year. That amounts to $83,588, eating up all of the 2-percent the district would gain if it stays within the state-imposed tax cap.

“I compare it to the stages of dying,” Dr. Hynes said Friday morning. He describes himself as locked into the first phase — anger.

“I will never get to the acceptance phase,” he said. “It’s outrageous and it’s not just us,” he added, since East End schools are all being treated as though they were stereotypically wealthy Hamptons communities.

Property values may be higher on Shelter Island and the North Fork than other regions, but salaries don’t reflect that, according to arguments made by area superintendents in past years, with many people unemployed or under-employed.

“I need to understand the process of how this came about,” Dr. Hynes said about the governor’s current proposal.

“It seems there’s no rhyme or reason” to how the cuts were made, he said. Some districts are seeing hikes of close to 10 percent in state aid while others are being asked to sustain cuts of almost 20 percent, he said.

Even in East Rockaway and Oceanside — communities devastated by Sandy — the governor’s proposal would result in significant decreases in school aid, Dr. Hynes aid.

He intends to carry his message to both Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and the governor.

“We cannot sustain this,” Dr. Hynes said. It would “handcuff” the Shelter Island School District as it undergoes major transformations to better prepare students for college and the job market, Dr. Hynes said.

When Governor Cuomo announced his budget proposal last week, he touted an overall 3-percent hike in school aid statewide that would see education spending rise from $20.2 billion in the current school year to $20.8 billion next year. Then came the district-by-district breakdown with more bad news for East End Schools, Dr. Hynes said.

In the past the governor’s budget has been tweaked by the legislature and more aid is allocated. But given the continued tight economy, that may not happen and even if it did, there’s no guarantee that Shelter Island would be the benefactor of more money, Dr. Hynes said.

The Board of Education is expected to begin the budgeting process in the first of three public sessions on February 11, making it unlikely there would be any indication of whether there might be movement at the state level to restore any of the projected loss in aid.

Mr. Cuomo has been more successful than predecessors in getting budgets passed on time — by the end of March to begin the fiscal year April 1 with a spending plan in place. But by February school districts start to plan their budgets, plugging in the governor’s proposed budget numbers while hoping the legislature will add to their coffers.