Local school officials said Thursday that some of the proposals for education in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address have merit. However, without enough funding and mandate relief, they said their schools will have a difficult time maintaining the programs they already have.
In his Wednesday message, Cuomo talked about ways to transform and modernize education including extending the school day and year and providing universal full-day pre-kindergarten starting with the highest-needs students. Others programs discussed including raising the performance of teachers and principals. While some of the programs would be funded by the state, he did not discuss specific aid to schools. That is expected later this month when he proposes his budget that will have to be approved by the legislature.
Proposals such as extending the school day and having the state pick up the costs have merit, Unatego Central School business manager Nicholas Rosas said. But he was concerned where the money would be coming from, because he said the state has been cutting state aid for several years. To close a budget gap left by last year’s shortfall, the district had to reorganize its elementary schools. Rosas said this year, everything will be on the table for what he anticipates will be another difficult budget.
Instead of new proposals, Rosas said he’d like to see the state focusing on adjusting its aid formula to better reflect upstate needs, and providing the mandate relief that was promised when the state adopted a property tax cap.
This will be a problem in next year’s budget with the state mandating such things as all schools increasing payments to the teacher and employee retirement funds, he said, adding that in Unatego’s case, this would be an additional $350,000 that could require a 5 percent raise in the tax levy, barring any other funding.