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Local News

March 15, 2014

Seward: Budget eases taxes, boosts schools

With the state Senate completing work on its 2014-15 budget proposal early Friday, an area senator said property tax relief and increased education aid were two of the components included in the spending plan.

With Assembly completing its work Wednesday, conference committees from both will be meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to arrive at a final budget, a local legislator said. The state’s fiscal year starts April 1.

The Senate proposal does not mention legalizing medical marijuana, as has been proposed by Cuomo and the Assembly. But it does include such items as increasing school aid by $811.9 million, including a restoration of $541 million of the state’s so-called gap elimination adjustment (GEA), which pulls money from school aid as a means of closing the overall budget deficit.

The proposal offers $217 million more towards offsetting the GEA than is included in Cuomo’s proposal, according to a media release from Sen. John Bonacic, R- Mt. Hope. It also includes $145 million for districts outside New York City for universal pre-kindergarten, while leaving flexibility for the funding to be used for kindergarten and GEA restoration, Bonacic said.

The Senate plan proposes a $1.4 billion “Freeze Plus” program that provides property taxes for two years for schools and local governments that stay within the 2-percent tax levy cap.

The plan also expands Cuomo’s proposed elimination of the net income tax on upstate manufacturers by making it statewide, and accelerates the phase-out of an energy tax to help with job creation, state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said.

“It is my goal and expectation that the state will adopt an early budget that meets the needs of families across our state,” Bonacic said in the release. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Seward said that although the three budgets differ, “the good news is that property tax relief is on the table, and very much alive.” He said he hopes it makes it into the final budget.

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