Update: School districts already dealing with the multiple complexities of the Covid-19 shutdown are facing far bigger problems as budget deadlines approach and the governor warns of cuts to education aid.
Budget votes and school board elections were scheduled throughout the state on May 19, but on Monday, the governor ordered them postponed until June. In recent meetings, trustees and superintendents have been outlining in rich detail their plans for the next school year. School tax bills tend to make up the majority of the tax bills for residents and businesses alike.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sent a direct message to school districts Friday that they’ll be prime targets when the state budget is cut because of the loss of tax revenues resulting from the shutdown.
“We’re going to have to cut education costs because that’s our main expense,” he said during a press conference to provide updates on the state’s battle against the COVID-19 epidemic. On Thursday and again Friday, he complained about the stimulus bill which he said did nothing to help local and state governments to make up in lost income and sales taxes and other revenue.
But local school districts had previously complained that the state aid fell short, citing an increase in the number of students falling below the federal poverty line. They said a less-than-needed state aid package, combined with this year’s tax cap of 1.8 percent, will squeeze districts that already are dipping into reserve funds.
This year’s state aid “brought some of the lowest increases to Long Island in general and South Huntington specifically, in over a decade, an increase of approximately one half of one percent,” Bennardo said in January. “If a pattern develops where 9 percent is going to the urban centers and 1 percent to Long Island, districts like Commack and districts like South Huntington and all the other districts on Long Island will be in crisis.”
The New York State United Teachers fired back Monday, saying, “New York cannot expect to fix this crisis on the backs of our students.
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the vital role that our schools play in our communities. They provide meals, they provide care for the needs of children, they provide mental health services — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”