02/05/13 8:00am

JULIE LANE PHOTO | School Superintendent Michael Hynes has continued his call for a meeting with Governor Cuomo to protest proposed aid cuts.

In his ongoing effort to roll back a proposed 17.1 percent  cut in state aid to Shelter Island School Superintendent Michael Hynes has sent an invitation to Governor Andrew Cuomo for a meeting.

The invitation comes as no surprise. Dr. Hynes has spent the last week pleading his case to state legislators and said when he heard about the projected cut, he wanted a sit-down with  the governor.

While the governor’s overall budget proposal contained an approximate 3 percent increase in state aid, the additional money was projected to go to New York City and upstate districts, while cuts would affect many Long Island districts, including all on the East End.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.( I-Sag Harbor), responding to Dr. Hynes request and a letter from social studies teacher Brian Doelger, announced he objected to the projected cut.

Mr. Thiele planned to make the case to his legislative colleagues for restoration of high tax aid that helped balance a formula based on property values and incomes. The high tax aid that has been part of the formula in the past helps districts like Shelter Island where residents have a high cost of living, including higher taxes than are assessed to residents in many other parts of the state.

01/31/13 12:20pm

COURTESY PHOTO | Fred Thiele Jr. has stepped forward to protest Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to slash school aid to Shelter Island.

Fred Thiele Jr.’s not Shelter Island’s assemblyman yet — he’ll take that spot in January 2014 —  but he’s already on the case fighting the good fight.

That’s according to School Superintendent Michael Hynes who’s hopping mad about proposed state cuts in school aid but pleased at Mr. Thiele’s prompt response when asked to help.

Mr. Thiele has stepped forward on the critical concerns expressed by Dr. Hynes about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to slash money coming to the district by 17.1 percent. That’s $83,588 less than the district received to help fund the current school year.

Social studies teacher Brian Doelger, who wrote to Mr. Thiele expressing his own concerns about the projected cuts, received the following emailed letter from Mr. Thiele:

“In general, the purpose of the school aid is to ensure that children in every school district, regardless of geographic location, have the necessary resources to obtain a sound basic education. Specifically, the formula is supposed to take into account wealth factors to insure that poor areas have the similar level of resources as wealthy areas. The school aid formula uses both income and property wealth to do this. Consequently, so-called wealthy districts may get less than 10 percent of their revenue from state aid, while so-called poorer districts may get 70 percent to 80 percent of their aid from the state. The state aid is designed to take into account that lack of property tax base in poorer areas.

In my opinion, the current formula works against Long Island and I have long been critical of it. It gives too much weight to property values, which are very high on the East End, and not enough to the higher cost of living and high property tax burden on Long Island. Through the years, one of the tools for which Long Island legislators have advocated is an additional school aid category called High Tax Aid. High Tax Aid takes into account those parts of the state with very high property taxes and provides additional aid to address this tax burden. This is an aid category that has been very beneficial for Long Island and has made the state formula more equitable for our residents.

In the Governor’s current proposal, he has proposed a roughly 3 percent increase in state aid to education or about $610.3 million increase, However, his proposal changes the school aid formula to direct a greater proportion of school aid to so-called “high needs” or low wealth districts. Specifically, in the category of High Tax Aid, the Governor has proposed $154.74 million or a decrease of $50.3 million in this category. This money is being redirected by the Governor to low wealth school districts. According to the Governor, this “promotes a more equitable distribution of aids to school districts.”

The impact of the Governor’s proposal can be seen on Shelter Island. Last year, Shelter Island got $100,000 in “High Cost Aid.” This year, with the reduction and shift, that amount is reduced to $30,000. This represents the bulk of aid loss to the district.

Across the state, of the 676 school districts, 517 are seeing an aid increase and 159 are seeing a decrease. In Suffolk, with 65 school districts, 39 districts see an increase and 26 a decrease.

The Governor’s proposal clearly indicates his belief that Long Island schools are wealthy and have received too much aid. Needless to say I disagree. In my opinion, education should be our highest priority, and even in fiscally difficult times, with increased pension and health care costs and the 2 percent tax cap, no school district should receive less state aid than the previous year.
As you know, the Governor’s budget is just a proposal. The Legislature must now hold hearings before adopting a final budget before April 1. Working with the Long Island delegation, it is my goal to restore Long Island’s share of school aid and insure that no district receives less aid than last year.”