To kick off his annual Town Hall series, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) recently joined residents in Centereach to discuss the issues that are important to them. The meeting, which was held at the Centereach Branch of the Middle Country Public Library, was an open forum that enabled Senator Flanagan to hear what is on the minds of the people of the community.
Senator Flanagan updated the attendees about the ongoing budget discussions and his efforts to make sure that the state budget delivers what is needed for Long Island taxpayers including property tax relief and needed school funding.
Senator Flanagan warned the crowd that the budget proposed by Governor Eliot Spitzer shortchanges school districts in Suffolk County and this continues for the next few years. While Governor Spitzer’s budget contains $1.4 billion in increased aid to education, Long Island receives only 8% of that increase.
The budget also places 303 school districts (45 percent of school districts) in New York State on a permanent save harmless basis, which means that these 303 districts will only receive three percent minimum annual increases over the next four years. Beyond that point, these school districts will face flat operating aid funding from year to year. The greatest concentration are in the down state suburban counties (Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess) where 90 percent of the districts are on save harmless under the Governor’s plan.
This proposal to provide three percent increases to the these districts could lead to short falls in operating aid and result in an annual double digit property tax increases.
To highlight his concern, Senator Flanagan used the example of special education funding to show the danger of this new formula. Since this funding is now contained in the general aid formula, it will only increase at the minimum level that is being proposed in the Executive Budget. This will lead to a budget deficit for schools who experience an increase in their special education population and will force increases in school taxes.
"The problem is that Long Island schools do not fit into Governor Spitzer’s formula and that will harm our children and our taxpayers for years to come. Almost 90% of the school in the suburban areas of our state are provided with the absolute minimum in state aid and that is unacceptable," said Senator Flanagan. "Governor Spitzer does have a number of good programs in this budget and for that he is to be applauded. But we must make sure that his efforts to provide more for New York City does not lead to less for Long Island’s children."
Senator Flanagan also spoke about the Senate’s ongoing effort to strengthen the sexual abuse laws of New York State and the need to continually update our laws to protect children.
After his brief opening remarks, Senator Flanagan then opened the floor to questions from those who joined him at the meeting. This allowed these residents to discuss issues ranging from the distribution of the profits from the New York State lottery to the efforts to cut the cost of Medicaid.
For those who were unable to attend the meeting, follow up information about the issues discussed is now available atin the Senate Update section of this web site. This section also contains information about upcoming town hall meeting that Senator Flanagan will be hosting throughout the area.
Residents can also join Senator Flanagan for a virtual Town Hall meeting he will be hosting on March 20th at 7:30 p.m. This virtual "Q & A" session will enable residents to ask questions via the Internet. To participate in this event, please click hereany time prior to or during the chat.
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