March 31, 2008

State budget details emerge as clock runs out

Source: NYSUT News Wire

With an eye on the clock — and the April 1 budget deadline — state lawmakers worked on details of a final agreement throughout the day, and into the night, on Monday.

Based on reports from NYSUT’s legislative staff — which worked throughout the weekend to ensure sufficient resources for New York schools — and the media, the final 2008-09 budget is expected to include:

  • K-12 spending increases by $1.8 billion, about $350 million more than what the proposed Executive Budget ($1.46 billion) included in January.
  • Minimum state aid increase climbs from 2 percent to 3 percent.
  • High tax aid is included, mostly for Long Island.  News reports also say there is an agreement to increase rebates under the STAR program.
  • Teacher Centers and mentoring programs are funded at last year’s levels, although NYSUT continues to work to negotiate an increase.
  • Because of changes in the phase-in of the Foundation Formula (from 42 percent to 38.5 percent), there may be fewer Contract for Excellence Districts this year.  The phase-in changes the amount of aid some high-needs districts receive, possibly dropping them below the 10 percent aid increase threshold that qualifies them for Contract for Excellence status. In addition, superintendents and school business officials are seeking greater flexibility in how the money is used, including using a greater percentage of the money for programs already in place.
  • In addition to the 2.5 percent cut in operating aid faced by SUNY and CUNY, Gov. Paterson proposed an additional 3.35 percent cut. This 5.85 percent totals amounts to reductions in state aid of $80 million for SUNY, $40 million for CUNY and $20.4 million for community colleges.  NYSUT is working on restorations as part of the package of new taxes and fees (revenue-enhancers) being negotiated.
  • The Buffalo News reports TAP funding has been restored, but no dollar amounts were available.