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State Restores Aid to Pearl River Schools

The Pearl River School District will have approximately $700,000 more in state aid than expected to put toward the 2013-14 budget.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed executive budget for 2013-14 called for an overall increase in aid to schools, but Pearl River was projecting a decrease in state money for the district.

The reason was a change in High Tax Aid, which would have gone from $928,000 to $278,000 according to Pearl River Director of Operations Quinton Van Wynen, but that all changed in the final state budget.

Pearl River Superintendent Dr. John Morgano explained that Pearl River will see approximately $700,000 more in state aid than expected for 2013-14 at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting. The High Tax Aid money to the district was restored.

The Pearl River Board of Education adopted a 2013-14 proposed budget March 19 which included $1.7 million in cuts from the 2012-13, primarily coming from the elimination of jobs within the district. The additional aid could allow Pearl River to hire back some of the staff being let go if the budget passes May 21. 

"With the additional funding, we anticipate in May that we'll be able to hire back some of the folks who were excessed," Morgano said. "We can't do it until May. The people that were told they will probably be coming back, we explained why it can't be done until May."

The concern is the new state regulation if the budget does not pass. If a budget fails to get enough votes for a second time, the district would have to go back to the levy for 2012-13.

"For us, that would be a difference of $1.5 million," Morgano said. "Added to the $1 million we have cut in staff that won't come back, that is a lot of money. We are very hopeful that the budget will pass. It has passed for many, many years."

Pearl River's 2012-13 budget passed with 73.3% of the vote. The current proposal calls for a 1.68% tax increase for homeowners and stays under the state mandated cap on the tax levy increase.

If the budget passes, teachers could be rehired as early as the board of education meeting that night. Morgano said the positions would be restored first among employees that deal with academic intervention services such as special education.

"For example, a math position at the high school we excessed, that position will be in academic intervention services for students who need additional support," Morgano said. "That is a position we anticipate will be restored.

"We are trying to restore to the most needy students. If we got $1.7 million back, we would restore everything. If we receive $700,000 out of $1.7 million, we have to have a philosophy for what we are putting back and we are restoring to the most needy kids first."

Morgano said that the teachers who are brought back would pick up right where they left off in salary step increases and tenure. 

"They come back almost as if they never left," Morgano said. 

Editor's note: Check back with Pearl River Patch for more from Tuesday's meeting. 

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