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March 11, 2014

Cuomo budget includes education initiatives

Proposed spending plan would add Universal Pre-K programs, institute property-tax freeze

ALBANY — An increase in school aid is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

That, according to his executive budget, totals “an $807 million increase in education aid for the 2014-15 school year, $608 million of which is … formula-based school aid. 

“Most of the allocated increase is provided through a $323 million partial restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.”

Some of money for that expenditure and other 2014-15 initiatives, Cuomo said, will come from a surplus of more than $300 million the state is on track to rack up this fiscal year.

The executive budget also adds $1.5 billion for universal pre-kindergarten programs to be phased in over five years — should that item remain in the final spending plan.

With regard to school aid, Cuomo looks to connect state funding support to performance evaluation and review of teachers, even though Common Core testing and its reporting procedure is under legislative review.

The governor posits that school spending remains extraordinarily high. 

“State support for education and school property taxes have far outpaced the rate of inflation over the last 10 years,” he says in his budget narrative. 

“New York public schools spend more per pupil ($19,076) than any other state and 81 percent above the national average. However, New York’s high level of education spending has not translated into equally high student performance.”

Cuomo has also proposed a property-tax freeze to “incentivize” school districts to control spending.

His budget proposal would freeze, for two years, the property-tax bills of homeowners in school districts that stay within the property tax cap. 

“Eligible homeowners will receive a state tax credit to cover increases in their tax bills,” the budget narrative says.

In the second year, those districts would also have to implement a multi-year regional plan of shared services and administrative consolidation that produces recurring property-tax savings. 

Email Kim Smith Dedam:kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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