A file photo of a school bus (May 3, 2011)

A file photo of a school bus (May 3, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Long Island schools can expect nearly $90 million in fresh state operating aid next year, which educators called a welcome relief after three straight years of aid freezes and cuts.

The financial boost announced late Thursday by state lawmakers in Albany includes $29.3 million in new assistance for Nassau County and $60.4 million for Suffolk. Local school officials generally praised the measure, while adding that they still were analyzing the district-by-district distribution of the money.

Islandwide, the new operating aid represents about a $33 million increase over the amount proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in January. The extra money for general aid was secured when the governor gave up most of his original proposal for large increases in competitive grants to districts that proved their ability to raise student test scores or operate more efficiently.

"I'd say our elected representatives did well for Long Island," said Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES and a leading regional analyst.

Henry Grishman, superintendent of Jericho schools, said a quick review of aid distribution to his district and its neighbors indicated that they had obtained more money than first anticipated. "We thank the legislature and the governor for this increase," said Grishman, a former president of the State Council of School Superintendents.

The Island's increase is slightly more than 4 percent, compared with about 3.7 percent for New York City and 3.8 percent statewide. The figure excludes aid for school construction and renovation, which varies widely among districts.

Local districts with some of the biggest dollar gains in proportion to total budgets included Brentwood, with a $7.6 million increase; Middle Country, with a $3.5 million raise; and Wyandanch and Lindenhurst, each with about a $2.3 million increase.

Legislative leaders predicted that a bill authorizing the additional payments would be approved Friday in advance of the state's April 1 deadline.

Total state aid will rise $805 million during the 2012-13 school year, to $20.3 billion. The increase is the exact amount originally pledged by Albany two years ago, in an innovative effort to help schools plan.

To help raise required revenues, Cuomo and state lawmakers last year imposed a new 8.82 percent tax rate on married couples filing joint income statements of $2 million or above. The so-called "millionaire's tax" was a bipartisan agreement by a Democratic governor and Democratic-dominated Assembly and a Republican-led Senate.

"This is a good demonstration that people can find ways to work together," said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Flanagan said the legislature still has more work to do in relieving districts of certain mandated costs imposed by state laws. Despite the latest hikes in state assistance, districts face tight spending limits next year because of new statewide caps on property-tax increases.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) issued a statement declaring that lawmakers would "keep the promise to increase our investment in public education, the cornerstone of our economy." He added that increased aid included $10 million for teacher-training centers and $7 million for an attendance program run by non-public schools.

Richard Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said the assistance would help relieve "the ever-increasing burden on tuition-paying families in Catholic schools."

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