Saturday, April 01, 2006

All Rockland public school districts to see more state money

[ This is nothing against our friends across the Hudson, but I think this Journal News article speaks volumes, in my opinion, about the continuing inequities in school funding. - Mary ]

THE JOURNAL NEWS (Rockland Co., NY) April 1, 2006

Every Rockland school district will see an increase in state aid if the Legislature's projections hold.

Three districts � Nanuet, North Rockland and South Orangetown � are looking at double-digit percentage hikes for the 2006-07 school year.

"Isn't that nice," Nanuet spokeswoman Jo Cavaliere marveled after learning of the district's proposed 17 percent aid increase. "That's certainly well deserved."

Nanuet, the smallest of Rockland's eight public school districts, is projected to receive a little more than $4.5 million in state aid for the 2006-07 school year, up $655,086 from this year.

Phil Sions, Nanuet's assistant superintendent for business, said the district would use the extra money to reduce the tax levy increase on its residents from a previously predicted 9.3 percent to 8.36 percent.

"We've been running several years of high tax levy increases due to increased enrollment," he said.

"This is a great thing for us," he continued. "It's like Christmas here."

North Rockland Deputy Superintendent Brian Monahan said that his district's proposed 10.29 percent state aid increase would be something to celebrate in any other year, but it's not enough to help offset the high taxes residents will be forced to pay as a result of the tax delinquency by energy giant Mirant.

"It will certainly help to control taxes, but will only do so in a small way," Monahan said.

Residents in the North Rockland school district are facing a 45 percent increase in their taxes, Monahan said, and he's hoping the state will dole out extra aid because of the district's situation.

"In an ordinary year, we'd be cheering," he said.

Assemblyman Ryan Karben, D-Monsey, said he was confident Gov. George E. Pataki would not veto the legislators' state education aid projections, but the Legislature would likely have enough override votes if he does.

"The most important thing the state does is ... enable the school districts to educate our kids," Karben said.

"The budget's a huge win for our kids."

Pearl River parent Mary Gettler, also the treasurer of the Franklin Avenue Elementary PTA, said she was hoping her district's extra money would go toward advancing technology in the classroom, expanding language programs and building additional classrooms.

"If we can get additional state aid, it would be wonderful," Gettler, a mother of two, said. "I don't think Pearl River has had an opportunity to build as much as they want to."

Pearl River's proposed state aid increase is $417,934, or 7.87 percent, over this year for a total aid package of $5.7 million.

South Orangetown is slated to receive $7.16 million in state aid next year, up $764,436, or 11.95 percent, over this year.

"The legislators have really done a great job at infusing more money into the schools," said Ann Vaccaro-Teich, assistant superintendent for business in the South Orangetown district.

Vaccaro-Teich said the Board of Education must now decide whether to put the extra money toward programs, such as technology, athletics and instructional supplies, or use it to reduce the residents' tax burden.

"This allows us to have about $300,000 more than what we were anticipating in our preliminary state aid budget," she said.

State Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City, said state education aid is "so crucial" to suburban school districts like Rockland's.

"I'm delighted this year we had the ability to add what we did add," he said.



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