School budgets go before voters Tuesday across LI

Tuesday is decision day for voters in Long Island's 124 school districts.

Residents will be casting their ballots on proposed school budgets, and some tax-weary homeowners may be pleasantly surprised this year due to an exceptionally low tax cap and an increase in aid.

The state-imposed tax cap is 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year's inflation rate was a miniscule 0.12 percent, meaning schools had very little wiggle room to increase spending without piercing the cap.

But many districts were still able to propose sizable budget increases while staying under the cap due to a huge influx in state education aid passed by lawmakers in Albany this spring. They eliminated the gap elimination adjustment, or GEA, a formula that was used to withhold a portion of aid to schools.

For many Long Islanders, the tax numbers stack up to a nice change of pace. The average proposed school tax hike in Nassau and Suffolk is about 0.58 percent. In six districts there is no proposed hike at all, and in 19 districts taxes would actually decrease.

Still, many administrators say they're afraid that if inflation continues to stay extremely low, there will be no way schools can keep up with their increasing costs.

Nine districts are proposing budgets that pierce the cap. For those budgets to be enacted, a 60 percent majority of voters would have to give their approval.

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