1 in 5 Long Island School Districts in ‘Fiscal Stress’

Long Island Schools

Long Island had the highest proportion of school districts suffering from fiscal stress in New York State last year with one in five districts in some degree of economic malaise.

In total, 25 of the 124 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties were identified to be in some state of fiscal stress, according to a report published by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli Thursday. The report included 82 districts statewide. [FULL LIST BELOW]

Of the 25 districts, 10 have appeared in the report all three years its been released, giving the region the designation of having the highest amount of districts in the state experiencing chronic fiscal stress. Nine of the 10 were in Suffolk County.

Hempstead Union Free School District had the highest overall fiscal score of 98.3—the highest ever recorded.

“Certain groups of school districts are more likely than others to be fiscally stressed,” the report states. “Districts in the high-need urban/suburban need/resource category are more than twice as likely as districts overall to be in a fiscal stress category.”

The districts included in the report either struggled with moderate fiscal stress or significant fiscal stress or were susceptible to fiscal stress.

The report took into account for key indicators: low fund balance, operating deficits, low liquidity and short-term debt.

Four districts on LI were found to be experiencing significant stress: Hempstead, Sachem Central School District, Wyandanch Union Free School District and Copiague Union Free School District.

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The three LI districts categorized as suffering from moderate fiscal stress were East Islip Union Free School District, Elwood Union Free School District and East-port-South Manor Central School District.

East Islip, Wyandanch, Copiague, Sachem and Eastport-South Manor were among the 10 districts that have appeared in the report since 2013. The remaining five were Bay Shore Union Free School District, East Moriches Union Free School District, East Quogue Union Free School District, West Islip Union Free School District and Valley Stream 24 Union Free School District—the lone district from Nassau.

The report does not identify districts that are in healthy fiscal standing, but instead looks at those that are struggling financially and if there have been any signs of recovery.

The one bright spot was Lawrence Union Free School District, which saw its fiscal score drop from 80 percent in 2014 to 23.3 percent in 2015—tied for the largest decrease in the state.

Despite the fiscal problems indicated in the report, the overall health of the districts across the state is healthy, the report found.

The comptroller’s study did not propose any potential solutions but it did challenge residents and officials to take measures to identify what’s causing the problem.

“School boards, school business officials, taxpayers and other interested parties in these districts should work to understand and address the factors that are contributing to fiscal stress,” the report advised.