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Legislature Cuts Budget Deficit, But Leaves Schools Alone…This Year

<p>The New York State Senate chambers.  Photo courtesy of the NYS Senate.</p>
The New York State Senate chambers. Photo courtesy of the NYS Senate.

State Senators Wednesday filled most of a big gap in the state budget without hurting this year’s local school district budgets, but took a chunk out of next year’s budget in the process.

The Senate approved a $2.7 billion deficit reduction plan that the Assembly had approved in an overnight session that stretched into Wednesday morning.

According to the Assembly, here’s what got cut:

“12.5 percent cut to remaining balances of local assistance grants; 5 percent cut to operating aid for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges; 5.4 percent cut to the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities; and $107 million in health care actions. The agreement also included several one-time legislative actions, including $200 million from the Battery Park City Authority, $90 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, $10 million from the Environmental Protection Fund and $26 million from the Dormitory Authority. The Governor also agreed to $485 million in agency cuts.”

But state aid to school did not take a cut. Gov. Paterson had proposed a mid-year cutback that would have forced districts to either dip deeply into cash reserves or cut many jobs, and perhaps both. Instead, lawmakers agreed to take money that was promised for next year’s school budgets, by removing millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds set aside for schools in 2010.

According to the Albany Times-Union:

“I think there are going to be severe reductions,” Assembly Republican Minority Leader Brian Kolb said earlier in the week, referring to next year’s outlook for education spending. “Now they have advance notice for next year,” he said of the schools.

Even though public school systems have avoided cuts so far, the DRP will reduce spending for summer school special education; private schools for the blind and deaf; library aid; and Bundy Aid for colleges.

Gov. Paterson said afterwards that he was not thrilled with the package of cuts because it did not fill the entire $3.2 billion gap, but he would not veto the measures.