Island to benefit from school and environmental state aid

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Shelter Island School
REPORTER FILE PHOTO Shelter Island School

An additional $34,157 in state aid to education for the 2017-18 school year is slotted for Shelter Island, according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor).

But only about $18,000 of that money will be slotted into the revenue side of the budget since some of aid is tied to specific spending the district won’t be able to use, according to district business official Tim Laube.

Still, he said, he appreciates whatever money will come in from the state.

“I hope for the best, but I plan for worst,” Mr. Laube said, explaining that some of the promised aid won’t be realized because it’s tied to specific uses and levels of spending the district won’t hit.

For example, Shelter Island receive $19,408 more for software, library and text books, but can expect to see only about $7,312 of that money.

“You get what you get,” Mr. Laube said. If the district realizes more than the $18,000 he expects, it will land in the fund balance and be used to offset spending in future years, he said.

The district expected $571,985 in state aid for the current school year as compared with $606,132.5 for the 2017-18 year based on the $34,157 Mr. Thiele said would be forthcoming. That represents a 5.97 percent increase instead of the 4.69 percent that was offered in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget. Mr. Thiele had blasted the governor’s proposal calling it “totally inadequate” and gave Mr. Cuomo “a failing grade when it comes to educating our children on eastern Long Island.”

But as is typical, once the state legislature acted, aid increased in the final budget.
Just what this means to the overall budget for the district is unclear, but before the increase in state aid, the district’s proposed $11.3 million budget was on track to stay within the state-imposed tax rate cap.

Schools are closed this week and Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik couldn’t be reached for a response to how the increased money might affect the district’s budget. With no major cuts in spending, it would appear that the added state money could enable the district to take less from its fund balance to close the gap between what taxpayers contribute and other income that supports the spending plan.

That will be clarified next week when the Board of Education meets on Wednesday evening to review its budget request.

“The final budget demonstrates the legislature’s continuing commitment to education,” Mr. Thiele said, noting that it provides a $1.1 billion increase in state aid, including $700,000 million in foundation aid.

That aid is designed to ensure all students have access to a “sound basic education” and is calculated by the Board of Regents to cost $4.3 billion under the current formula.

But the governor’s budget proposal, which was criticized by educators and legislators around the state, would have gutted the formula that provided for changes year to year. Instead it would permanently lock in the amount of foundation aid at the 2017-18 level.

Two other education-related initiatives in the state budget provide “critical” funds for area colleges, according to Mr. Thiele are:

• $5 million will help renovate existing buildings at the Stony Brook-Southampton Campus. In recent years, the state has constructed a $10 million new marine sciences building at Southampton and $7.5 million has gone for general campus improvements.

“The appropriation of an additional $5 million will further enhance efforts to revitalize Southampton,” Mr. Thiele said.

• $2 million will go to Suffolk County Community College for its health sports center at the Eastern Campus. That total project is budgeted at about $20 million and is funded by the state and county on a 50-50 basis. The additional $2 million budgeted now will cover unanticipated increases in the cost that have developed during the building process, Mr. Thiele said.

Environmental aid

The final state budget allocates what Mr. Thiele called “historic levels of funding to protect Long Island’s environment.” That includes $2.5 billion in capital funding for clean water initiatives and $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund.

The environmental funding provides:

• $110 million statewide for land acquisition and water protection

• $75 million to upgrade and replace outdated cesspools and septic systems statewide

• $1 million for the Stony Brook University Water Technology Center for research, development and pilot projects to remove 4-dioxane from the water supply

• $3 million for Suffolk County and the Stony Brook University Water Technology Center to address nitrogen loading form septic waste

• $250,000 to support the Long Island Regional Planning Council for the Long Island Nitrogen Reduction Plan

• $200,000 for the Peconic Estuary Program

• $6.05 million to eradicate invasive species, including the southern pine beetle

“I am proud of the leadership role the East End has taken in cleaning up our water,” Mr. Thiele said.

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