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State Senate Candidates Trade Barbs Over School Aid Issue

OSWEGO, NY – State Sen. John DeFrancisco and Senate candidate Dave Renzi held a press conference in front of the Kingsford Park Elementary School to speak out against budget-cutting efforts by New York City Democrats that could include reductions in promised school aid.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, right, and Senate candidate Dave Renzi.
State Sen. John DeFrancisco, right, and Senate candidate Dave Renzi.

The duo said they would fight New York City lawmakers’ attempts to impose new school aid cuts in the middle of the current school year – a move which will instantly produce job-killing higher taxes, according to Renzi.

“Albany has already broken its school aid promise to the property taxpayers of Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties once this year, when my opponent voted to cut $1 million from our school budgets,” Renzi said. “But cutting us again – with school already in session, teachers hired and budgets planned – and the higher property taxes that certainly would result are too much for our struggling families to bear.”

Senator Darrel Aubertine
Senator Darrel Aubertine

The calls for mid-year school aid cuts are just the latest assault on middle-class upstate homeowners by New York City politicians, he added.

“We’re certainly not going to put school aid on the table in mid-stream (as the state deals with its economic crisis),” Renzi said. “I think it’s inappropriate to do that.”

According to Renzi, earlier this year, Sen. Darrel Aubertine joined an effort by his Democrat colleagues to gut the STAR program and take away rebate checks that have helped take some of the sting out of rising property taxes for middle class families.

Aubertine’s plan would mean bigger tax bills for 800,000 upstate homeowners, the candidate claimed.

“If cutting school aid mid-year, and taking away tax relief is Darrel Aubertine’s idea of ‘trying’ to cut property taxes, it’s clearly time to give someone else a chance. As Senator, I won’t just ‘try’ to bring relief, I will cut your taxes,” Renzi said referring to a new campaign commercial, in which Aubertine says he is “trying” to reduce property taxes.

On Friday, Aubertine told Oswego County Today that he vows to end Long Island (lawmakers’) stranglehold on education funding, and would work to stop state education dollars from going to Long Island.

This year, Sen. Aubertine helped secure a record $46 million increase in state education aid for schools in the 48th Senate District, for a total of $500 million, but not without having to battle the Senate Majority’s efforts to send more aid to Long Island, the senator’s spokesman said.

On Friday, he called on Renzi “to stop spreading false information” about this year’s record school aid increase.

“To call an increase a cut is simply dishonest,” Aubertine said. “We had a record increase this year, but it would have been better if not for the Senate Majority’s same old political games, sending our education dollars to Long Island. The state has to end this funneling of school dollars to wealthy schools at the expense of the working people of Central and Northern New York.”

In the past two years, the Senate Majority has entered school aid budget negotiations with one goal in mind – sending more state dollars to wealthy Long Island Schools, according to Aubertine.

In both years, the Senate Majority used upstate Republicans to succeed in their goal, negotiating to provide $139 million in extra aid to Nassau and Suffolk counties just this year alone, he added.

Some of this money, the senator said, certainly went to make up for the pension fraud scandal, which involved unethical attorney’s taking improper benefits and double-dipping in the state pension system.

According to recent ads by a Senate Majority candidate for office on Long Island, these contract attorneys “collected millions in legal fees from local schools, then tried to funnel taxpayer dollars to lawyers who didn’t earn them,” Aubertine continued.

Aubertine added, “We should not waste state school funding by paying for attorneys who are simply stealing from the pension system. We made it a felony to do this, and as we enter budget negotiations this year, we have to keep the perpetrators of this scandal in mind and finally end the majority’s practice of sending too much to wealthy Long Island school districts.”

Aubertine also addressed “the false information” his opponent is now spreading about mid-year school cuts and the property tax cap.

“I voted for a property tax cap, and I will oppose efforts to impose mid-year school aid cuts,” Sen. Aubertine said. “Anyone who claims that I will do anything but increase funding for rural Upstate schools is not being honest, and everyone knows it.”

The Legislature is expected back in session on Nov. 18 to consider ways to reduce state spending.