Freeport Public Schools is busily planning our budget for the 2019-20 school year, since last November. It is a thoughtful fiscal process balancing the needs of our students with expenditures and revenues. Part of this planning process includes taking into account the State Aid earmarked by the Governor for school districts for the coming year. Annually, I speak of the importance of advocacy in order to ensure we receive our fair share and urge our community to get involved. Our budget planning is still in process as we await the final State Budget, due April 1st, by the governor. The last few and the next few weeks are key to advocating for the appropriate educational aid from the Governor and the State Legislature.
The promise of Foundation Aid based on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, CFE, has never been kept. Despite winning the lawsuit and New York State being ordered to pay Foundation Aid based on a formula, the payments have never fully been phased in. At this point, the formula is over ten years old and does not take into account the actual cost of providing each student with equal opportunities for success based on current conditions and regulations.
The formula does adjust weighting for poverty, disabilities, increased enrollment or English Language Learners and regional costs. We support the full restoration of Foundation Aid. Since the inception of Foundation Aid, Freeport is owed $320 million with $45 million in this year alone. Statewide the districts are owed $3.8 billion. Even if the implementation needs a phase-in, the court directive and promise must be kept. The State cannot shortchange our students and education in New York.
In addition to not receiving our full share of Foundation Aid, the governor is considering a cap on expense-driven aid such as BOCES, Special Education and transportation. The district receives aid back on these expenditures, and a cap would reduce the money coming back to the district. This will have a detrimental impact on our future spending in needed areas. We oppose a cap on expense driven expenses.
The federal and state government continually mandates increased services through regulatory amendments. While many of these mandates are important, such as mental health initiatives, safety and security initiatives, and increased services and resources for English Language Learners and unaccompanied minors, these mandates are made with insufficient or no funding. It is incumbent on districts to fund these mandates through their own budgets. We advocate for relief through increased aid for unfunded and underfunded mandates.
Another important area of advocacy is increased funding for pre-k programs. Although the governor has allocated funding for pre-k, this has been to establish new programs. There has been no increase in funding for existing pre-k programs for over ten years. With rising costs, this impacts the current programming. We support universal pre-k for all.
Freeport Public Schools is pleased that we have not only remained within the tax levy cap but have been able to decrease the tax levy for four years in a row while still maintaining and expanding our services for our students. However, advocacy is vital in order for us to maintain educational and fiscal equity. I urge each of you to reach out to our local and state legislators to advocate for our fair share. Fortunately, our legislators representing Freeport and Long Island have been fighting side by side with us for public education and the future of our students. Together, we can make a difference.