Thiele optimistic on aid restoration to Island school

JULIE LANE PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. told Shelter Island social studies students in Brian Doelger’s class Thursday morning he’s optimistic that money will be found to increase the district’s state aid for the 2013-14 school year.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) predicted Thursday morning that Shelter Island will see a restoration of state aid funds that Governor Andrew Cuomo cut from the district in his proposed budget.

“I am extremely optimistic that we’re going to be able to do that,” he told Shelter Island social studies students on a visit to their class. “The governor’s proposal is bad for Long Island and I think it’s unfair,” Mr. Thiele said.

The money won’t come from other districts, but will need to be found elsewhere in the budget, the legislator said. He had previously represented Shelter Island when he was a Suffolk County Legislator and in January, as a result of redistricting, he is again representing the area.

Mr. Thiele previously criticized the governor’s proposed cuts that would see the district lose $83,588 in state aid from the $486,263 it received last year. The loss primarily resulted from the governor’s elimination of about $50,000 in high tax aid, a part of the formula that benefits areas like Long Island where the cost of living and tax payments are considerably higher than in many other parts of the state.

It’s not a Democratic-Republican struggle for money, Mr. Thiele said. State budgets are based on geography where there’s a pull from three basic constituencies — Long Island, New York City and upstate. There’s always a disagreement about how much each area should receive, he said, but cutting out the high tax aid as Mr. Cuomo did is “a violation of that agreement of what the share should be” in communities like Shelter Island, he said.

The district is one of 26 on Long Island that are slated to get less money if the governor’s proposal holds, Mr. Thiele said.

“He thinks he’s playing Robin Hood” and taking from the wealthy and giving to poor, the legislator said. But in reality, areas like Shelter Island may have high property values, but residents don’t necessarily have high incomes and pay more money in taxes than some of the districts that are considered poor, he said.

Legislators from Long Island and the Hudson Valley — two areas similar in their needs — have signed a letter to the governor making the argument for the restoration of the high tax aid part of the formula.

Mr. Thiele also predicted another on-time budget that would mean the district would know the level of state aid by April 1, in time for it to be counted in the 2013-14 school year budget that will be submitted to local voters in May.