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Oceanside, Island Park school officials reassess budgets after state delays vote, cuts funding

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School budget votes have been delayed until at least June 1 because of the coronavirus outbreak, by order of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The votes were to have taken place May 19.

Oceanside and Island Park school district officials now have more time to prepare their tentative budgets, but likely less revenue because of cuts to the state spending plan and, as a result, state aid.

“We were very close to finishing [the budget],” Oceanside School District Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington said. “The good news is we built the budget’s revenue expectations very conservatively.”

Island Park Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosmarie Bovino said the district would use the delay to assess their plan.

“We will be looking at how the budget might need to be adjusted, in the event we lose some or all of this revenue,” she said. “It is too premature to make changes.”

Whether the school budget votes take place on June 1 remains to be seen. The coronavirus pandemic is fluid, and if new cases were to continue to arise, the vote could be delayed further, state officials said.

“The state budget was difficult,” Cuomo said in his Friday news conference.

Pushing back the vote will also give state and local officials a clearer picture of New York’s finances after the COVID-19 virus forced tens of thousands of businesses to close and sales tax collections to plummet. The governor had earlier predicted a $10 billion to $15 billion gap in the state budget, which is unprecedented.

Oceanside School District is expecting a roughly $900,000 decrease in state aid from the 2019-20 school year, Harrington said.  She added that while the district has not yet looked at cutting staff, “we have a lot of retirements, which is helping a lot.”

“We should be OK,” she said, “But we, no surprise, definitely took a hit.”

In Island Park, Bovino projects a $126,000 decrease in state aid, which could be offset by an education stabilization fund, she said. However, the district does not yet have specific information on what they could receive from that federal stimulus plan.

“The district is aware of the many challenges before them,” Bovino said. “Our goal will be to maintain quality programs, while keeping the tax levy as low as possible. We do not believe our community should shoulder any more of the tax burden.”

The state Legislature passed a $177 billion budget April 2, but it is riddled with uncertainty because no one knows precisely how long the coronavirus crisis will last, or what form it will take in the near future. Cuomo has said modeling predicts the peak of cases in New York is expected within the next seven to 21 days, but the state could continue to see cases into August.

Oceanside school officials’ next budget presentation, via a virtual meeting of the Board of Education, is April 22 at 7 p.m. Island Park Schools is still working out a date for its next presentation.