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Long IslandEducation

Sen. Marcellino predicts ‘record’ boost in LI school aid

New York State Senator Carl Marcellino speaks during

New York State Senator Carl Marcellino speaks during Longwood Central School District's 13th Regional Legislative Breakfast at Longwood Middle School in Middle Island, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Public schools on Long Island next year can expect a “record” hike in state financial assistance, greater than the amount recently proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a key lawmaker told area educators Friday.

Administration officials last month released figures showing that schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties would receive an aid increase somewhat smaller than the amount proposed last year.

Total assistance for the region would rise $98.5 million, or 3.3 percent, for the 2017-18 school year under Cuomo’s latest plan. That compares with a $126.8 million, or 4.5 percent, increase that the governor proposed in January 2016, and that state legislators later expanded.

School leaders on the Island and elsewhere have voiced concern over Cuomo’s plan, calling it “anemic” and insufficient to cover employee pay raises and other rising costs.

State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, sought to reassure school leaders Saturday that he and his colleagues would provide more money.

“I think you will see a record increase in aid,” said Marcellino, who formerly served on Syosset’s school board and taught science in New York City for more than 20 years. “Of that, I have no doubt. I don’t think you will be displeased with the amount of aid.”

Marcellino and other legislators spoke at a breakfast meeting attended by about 250 school board members, superintendents and others at Longwood Middle School in Middle Island. The annual event is sponsored by the Longwood district and Eastern Suffolk BOCES.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) also was scheduled to attend the breakfast, but canceled his appearance.

Cuomo’s budget, which requires approval by lawmakers, calls for a $1 billion — 4 percent — increase in aid statewide that will bring total assistance to $25.6 billion. A spokesman for the state’s Division of the Budget said the package demonstrated the governor’s “strong commitment to education.”

However, more than $190 million of that money has not yet been divided up among local districts. Some local school leaders worry that they may never see the funding, because the state is scrambling to close a $3.5 billion deficit hole in its own budget.

Regional and local education officials who attended Saturday’s meeting welcomed Marcellino’s pledge of additional state money, noting that their ability to raise revenue locally is restricted by state caps on property taxes.

“Obviously, that’s welcome news,” said Charles Russo, superintendent of East Moriches schools, referring to Marcellino’s comments. Russo is also president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.

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