Newsday's senior education writer John Hildebrand discusses the impact of increased school aid on LI districts Credit: Newsday

School spending across Long Island would climb nearly 6% in 2023-24 over the current year, the highest growth rate in 16 years, Newsday found in a survey of districts' proposed budgets. 

In contrast, school taxes would rise at a rate of just under 2% on average. Newsday's calculations were based on budgets compiled from all 124 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties.   

Voting is scheduled Tuesday on spending proposals totaling nearly $15.2 billion, as well as on hundreds of school board candidates. Also included in budgets are a combined $9.5 billion in school property taxes, which account for more than 60% of homeowners' tax bills. 

Trends in both spending and taxation are being shaped in large part by a record-breaking $771 million in extra state financial assistance allotted schools throughout the region. The added cash is allowing districts that previously were underfunded, including Brentwood, Freeport, Westbury and Wyandanch, to boost spending by double digits, while also curbing taxes.


  • School voting will be held Tuesday, with proposed spending up nearly 6% on average across Long Island, but with taxes up less than 2%. 
  • A massive infusion of state financial aid is driving many budget decisions, as some districts underfunded in the past opt for expansion of teacher staffs and advanced coursework. 
  • Six districts face potential voter overrides of state-imposed tax caps, while 95% of districts stick within their cap limits.

One notable tax break is a 17.8% reduction proposed by the William Floyd school system in southeastern Brookhaven Town. 

"From a financial standpoint, it's a very positive year without a doubt," said Bob Vecchio, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. "When the state invests in education, as it should and as prescribed by law, that will in a lot of cases provide the best form of tax relief for the local taxpayers." 

However, dozens of affluent and middle-class districts have received only minimum increases in state aid, under the state's progressive funding formula. Consequently, many districts have complained that they now face an inflationary pinch. 

Five districts, including Babylon, Springs and Montauk, have announced they will seek to override state tax-cap restrictions in order to obtain more revenues. A sixth district, Shelter Island, has said a spending proposition placed on its ballot by a group of voters could result in an override there. In all these cases under state law, voter majorities of 60% or better will be required to pass budgets.

Here are further details on funding issues facing schools for the next fiscal year that starts July 1.


A majority of districts' proposed spending increases are in the 3% to 8% range. Nine districts are calling for spending increases of more than 10%, while five districts are proposing a spending freeze or small reductions.

Freeport is asking voters to approve a $238.8 million budget that is up 13.8% from last year. The increase will be covered by state aid, allowing Freeport to drop its tax levy slightly next year, as it has for eight of the last nine years. 

At the same time, Freeport is adding teachers in fields including reading, math, music and art, along with elective high school courses in subjects such as artificial intelligence, precalculus and studio broadcasting. Planned improvements in physical plant include a new turf field, bleachers and a press box. 

Kishore Kuncham, the district's superintendent and an educator for more than 30 years, said during a recent budget presentation that the district's extra state funding came as a welcome surprise.

"I never thought I would see this in my time here," Kuncham said. "But I'm so pleased that it has happened finally, and I really hope it continues in this fashion in the future."


A majority of districts are holding tax increases to 5% or less. Only five districts are pushing for higher increases, and most of those will need 60% override votes to do so. A dozen districts are freezing rates, and five are calling for reductions. 

William Floyd proposes a $17.5 million cut in 2023-24, on top of a $5 million reduction already delivered this year. Local officials calculate that next school year's lowered rate will save the average homeowner more than $1,000. 

At the same time, the district proposes to fill 19.5 new teaching positions and expand technology throughout the system. Local authorities credit the state's latest aid increase for allowing them to expand student services, even while providing a major break for taxpayers. 

"With costs of nearly everything continuing to rise, this much-needed relief for residents couldn't have come at a better time, said April Coppola, president of William Floyd's school board. 


The Babylon district in western Suffolk County and four smaller districts farther east have announced they will seek larger increases in their tax levies than allowed by the state's strict tax-cap law. The four eastern districts are Montauk, New Suffolk, Springs and Wainscott. 

Shelter Island's district faces a potential override of a different sort. School officials there said a group of voters petitioned for additional spending on nonpublic bus transportation, and that the $102,498 busing proposition, if passed, would push the district over its cap limit. 

Babylon interim Superintendent Brian Conboy, center, speaks at a school board...

Babylon interim Superintendent Brian Conboy, center, speaks at a school board meeting. Credit: Rick Kopstein

In Babylon, a new interim superintendent, Brian Conboy, contended that the district is having a hard time meeting inflationary costs, because it raised taxes only 1.28% in 2021-22 and froze taxes in 2022-23. Consequently, Conboy has proposed a levy increase of 4.84% for 2023-24. Babylon' cap limit is 2.84%.

"I realize that overriding the cap is something no superintendent wants to do," Conboy told Newsday. "But it's something we need to do this year to maintain our curricular and extracurricular integrity." 

The plan has drawn a mixed reaction from residents. 

"Higher taxes decrease affordability for the average homebuyer, so house prices have to come down if taxes increase," said Georgia Westcott, a local resident and associate real estate broker who opposes a cap override. "It's a wonderful school district, but we have to be financially responsible." 

With Michael R. Ebert

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