Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate Majority Republicans would...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate Majority Republicans would restore much of the more than $100 million of canceled aid to five Long Island school districts, while the Democratic-led Assembly wants to restore all of it. (Nov. 2, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

State lawmakers are poised to restore millions of dollars of construction aid to five Long Island school districts that lost it after they missed paperwork deadlines.

But two proposals to do so -- affecting six districts statewide -- are millions of dollars apart in how far they would go.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate Majority Republicans would restore much of the more than $100 million of canceled aid, while the Democratic-led Assembly wants to restore all of it.

The issue is one of many competing for attention in ongoing negotiations in the state budget that is due by March 31.

The state building aid is reimbursement to the districts for money the districts have already spent. Districts borrow to pay for construction, so if the aid is canceled, that means the district has to bear the full cost of the projects they built.

The school districts that failed to file final costs reports on time after construction projects were completed already had received some state aid. In addition to canceling the remaining aid, the state wanted back the money already provided.

Cuomo's proposed budget would restore aid from the date the problem was corrected. This means that districts would still have to repay aid they received from the date of the missed deadline to the time it was filed.

"The governor in his executive budget proposal made a very fair and equitable proposal and we fully support that in the Senate," said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). "The governor went to great lengths to make it as beneficial as possible within reasonable fiscal constraints."

The Assembly version would eliminate the penalty.

"If a district has legitimately spent the money, then we shouldn't let a bureaucratic snafu prevent them from getting the full reimbursement," said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst). "The only one who gets hurt there is the taxpayer."

School officials said they were grateful to the governor and legislature for planning to restore aid, and hope to get as much as possible.

Under Cuomo's proposal, Central Islip's school district, which had $42 million of building aid canceled because a report due in 2006 wasn't filed until 2008, would get back $36.6 million.

"It's unfair to ask the citizens of this community to pay for a failure to turn in paperwork six years ago and three administrations ago," said Central Islip Superintendent Craig Carr. Carr said both proposals were fair, but "if the entire amount could be restored, it would be that much better."

Other Long Island districts affected are Smithtown, which lost $10.5 million; Rocky Point, which lost $2.4 million; Babylon, which lost $252,357; and Oyster Bay-East Norwich, which lost $250,000. The sixth district is Fredonia in western New York, which would owe the state $894,000 for aid for a project completed in 1998.

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