By Connor Beach
State lawmakers passed early Sunday morning a $175.5 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year that lawmakers say will increase school aid and restore funding to Huntington town government and community organizations.
Huntington Schools Secure $3.7M Aid Increase
The budget includes a total of $27.9 billion in school aid to districts throughout the state. The figure is a more than $1 billion increase from the previous year.
Huntington’s eight public school districts will see a $3.7 million increase in aid compared to last year’s budget, which State Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said will help “reduce the burden on overtaxed Long Island homeowners.”
Gaughran said state lawmakers were able to achieve “record funding for school districts.”
In total, Huntington schools are projected to receive $179,028,889, without subtracting building aid, from the state.
The biggest increase percentage-wise belongs to the South Huntington school district, which is in line for a 3.66 percent, or $1.24 million increase, from last year. Harborfields school district will see the smallest increase at 0.63 percent, or $88,458.
Figures for all eight school districts can be seen in the chart below.
Additional Funding For Gang Prevention
During a press conference Wednesday at the Tri Community Youth Agency in Huntington, Gaughran and State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D- Huntington) joined town and county officials to announce the state budget will include $235,000 in additional money of the town’s Communities and Schools Together (C.A.S.T.) program.
Gaughran said $135,000 will go to the Huntington Youth Bureau and the Tri CYA will receive $100,000. Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said both agencies are involved in running the C.A.S.T. program, which “helps kids avoid the pressures of becoming involved in gangs and gang violence.”
“The funding will be used to expand the C.A.S.T. program,” Lupinacci said. “That includes hiring a coordinator and two full-time youth and family specialists.”
The funding designated for Huntington’s C.A.S.T. program is part of a $1.3 million fund in the budget that Gaughran said would be available for communities across Long Island.
Tri CYA regional director Debbie Rimler said the funds will help the program reach over 100 local children and their families, and “provide them with an alternative to violence.”
“Out colleagues in the state legislature said these are exactly the type of programs we need to support,” Stern said. “When we craft a budget it’s ultimately about reflecting our values and priorities.”
AIM Funding Restored
Gaughran and Stern both said the restoration of funding for the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities program was an important aspect of the budget deal.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s preliminary budget released in January called for cuts of $1.1 million in AIM funding for Huntington. Gaughran said the approved budget “fully restores the $60 million in AIM funding to local towns and villages.”
He added the restoration was achieved despite an announcement by Cuomo in early February that the state would likely face a revenue shortfall of over $2 billion. Cuomo attributed the shortfall to a decrease in personal income tax receipts caused by the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions.
Lawmakers React To Budget Process
Gaughran and Stern, both relative newcomers to the state legislature said the budget process worked well overall, although Gaughran said he would like to see more “independent voting on policy.”
“At the end of the process the entire budget gets lumped together into one major vote on funding and policy issues,” Gaughran said. “I would like to see less policy in the budget to allow for more thorough debate.”
This year Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature, something Stern said encouraged “more exchange between individual members” compared to negotiated deals between party leaders often needed to achieve a compromise when Republicans controlled the state senate.
“It allowed for better results for our local communities,” Stern said.
“This year the budget was driven by the rank and file members, which helped our individual communities,” he said.
In a statement released Monday, Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan (R- East Northport) said the budget highlighted “the disastrous effects of one-party government… New York’s worst nightmare has been realized.”
“By voting for this disastrous spending plan, Democrats have totally turned their backs on local governments and middle-class families struggling through New York’s growing affordability crisis,” Flanagan said.