Letter to the Editor Regarding Public School Funding

March 15, 2006

To the Editor,

Recently, dozens of Long Island school board members, joined by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, urged the State Legislature to change the funding formula for aid to public schools. The Assembly Minority Conference has long advocated for fair, equitable funding of Long Island schools, and we welcome Mr. Suozzi’s support for our proposals.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, which is currently on appeal to the State’s highest court, orders the State to provide New York City schools with at least another $5.63 billion in operating aid annually (phased in over four years) and at least $9.18 billion more in school construction funds over the next five years. While all schools throughout the State face rising costs and fiscal challenges, the CFE decision only applies to New York City schools.

The residents of Nassau County and other counties throughout the State should not be forced to bear this excessive tax burden, especially since Long Island students are already shortchanged by the State’s school aid shares, which fail to take into account the higher cost of living in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Long Island residents already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. According to the Long Island Index, Long Island has the highest tax burden among all the states compared, raising approximately $2,445 per resident in property taxes in 2002, 43 percent higher than the statewide average.

In Albany, the Assembly minority is supporting a Restoration Aid plan that would add $28 million in aid to Long Island school districts this year, which would be used to decrease the property tax burden for residents while more equitably distributing school aid to highly-taxed areas such as ours. The Assembly minority is also supporting increased Operating Aid for the 2006-07 school year to help keep taxes down.

This additional aid is part of a comprehensive property tax relief plan, advocated by the Assembly Minority Conference, which would use the State’s $2 billion surplus to save the average homeowner and business $1,019 annually, and the average senior homeowner $1,483 annually. We encourage Mr. Suozzi to urge his fellow majority in Albany to support our plan.

David G. McDonough
Member of Assembly