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Reporter's Notebook

January 26, 2013

Cuomo's budget could be worse, officials say

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently releasing his proposed budget, including aid to area schools, future finances were on the mind of many involved in education.

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said in a media release that fiscal responsibility has been especially important over the last two years in Albany and Cuomo’s budget proposal appears to maintain that goal. He was pleased with the overall spending plan, which offers a baseline to build on as budget negotiations begin. A final budget is due to be approved April 1.

Besides programs backing upstate agriculture, tourism and small businesses, Seward was glad additional funding for schools was included. Now it is important to direct the bulk of the new money to the neediest districts, he said.

“Boosting overall aid is helpful,” he said, “however, the real key is correcting the distribution formula.”

While the mandate relief proposals, like capping pension costs, are a start, more attention needs to be focused on this area to provide help to local governments and schools as they struggle to make ends meet and keep property taxes down, he said.

New York State Council of School Superintendents Executive Director Robert J. Reidy, Jr. said in a media release that although the state continues to face financial uncertainties, Cuomo provided a strong start to helping schools with their ongoing financial challenges through his proposed budget for 2013-14.

“We will need time to study details and evaluate how much help the governor’s proposals will provide to all school districts,” he said.

He offered several observations.

The NYSCOSS survey conducted earlier this year found widespread worry about financial and educational insolvency among top school officials.

Sharply rising pension costs are the leading cause of fiscal stress for many because these costs are likely to rise more than what most districts would receive from either an average state aid increase or the 2 percent local tax increase.

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