LaValle predicts aid restoration

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle said not to worry about school budget cuts.

State legislators are predicting restoration of funds to those Suffolk County school districts like Shelter Island that were facing aid cuts under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Speaking Saturday at the annual Longwood Regional Legislative Breakfast, legislators, including Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-Port Jefferson) said they believe the money the governor recommended should be cut will be restored before the state adopts its budget, expected by its April 1 deadline.

Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, encouraged school administrators to focus their lobbying efforts on restoring $65 million in high tax aid that had been slashed by the governor. In past years, that aid went to districts like Shelter Island where local property taxes and living expenses are already higher than in other parts of the state.

Mr. Bixhorn also told the educators to concentrate on restoring funding from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, an item first used in 2010-11 to close what was then a $10 billion state budget deficit by deducting aid slated for all schools. Mr. Bixhorn said that should be more equitably applied. The governor’s budget would see Long Island school districts lose 12 percent of their aid, while other districts in the state were slated to lose 9 percent.

Shelter Island Superintendent Michael Hynes was planning to present two scenarios to his Board of Education in budget meetings set to begin Thursday night. One would be based on the governor’s budget request, while the other would include restoration of funds, he said.

If the state budget is finalized by the April 1 deadline, the district would have time to turn out a budget based on realistic income numbers.

Thursday’s meeting in the school library is at 6:30 p.m. to be followed by a regular monthly Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m.

Suffolk Times reporter Jennifer Gustavson contributed to this story.