New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. praised New York State’s 2012-2013 budget as being one that will provide the East End with both mandate relief as well as an increase in school aid. This comes at a time when school districts and municipalities are struggling to abide by a two-percent tax cap imposed by the state last year.
“A major factor in the East End sky-high property taxes is unfunded mandates from the state,” said Thiele in a press release issued on Monday. “Local governments are forced to pay certain costs and those costs show up in our property tax bills. It’s a real problem.”
According to Thiele, the $132.6 billion state budget, which was adopted last week, includes a provision for the state to take over the local share of the costs of Medicaid growth, which will be phased in over the next three years. Currently, only growth over three-percent is paid by the state. This initiative will save local governments an estimated $1.2 billion over the next five years, said Thiele. Additionally, the final budget provides for the state to take on all Medicaid administrative costs, which Thiele said will relieve overburdened local governments of this obligation.
I also supported a measure included in the final budget that will enable county clerks to share in fees collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for online transactions,” said Thiele. “Currently, county clerks’ offices only receive a portion of DMV-related fees if the transaction is performed in person, but the state collects the entire fee if it’s done online.”
Thiele also praised the budget for increasing aid to schools by $805 million and increasing community college based aid for the first time in five years.
Thiele said the final budget increase of $805 million for schools includes a $111.5 million increase in Foundation Aid, a $400 million increase in the Gap Elimination Adjustment restoration and a full restoration of $23 million for expense-based aids. Additionally, $125 million will be available through a competitive grant process.
The final budget also restores $10.2 million to teacher resource and training centers, increases non-public school aid by $7 million (for a total of $123.6 million), increases aid to public libraries by $3.9 million (providing $82.9 million in total funding), increases adult literacy education by $1 million (for a total of $5.2 million) and provides $1 million for the Missing Children Program.
Thiele added that the final budget authorizes school districts to use excess Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve (EBALR) funds to maintain educational programming. Additionally, it rejects a proposal to shift costs for the Preschool Special Education program onto local school districts.
Recognizing the critical role that community colleges play in job training and retraining, the Assembly promised to increase state support to the state’s public community colleges. The final budget increases support to $2,272 per full-time student for a total of $22.1 million for SUNY community colleges. The base aid increase is $150 per full-time student, the first community college base aid increase in five years.
In addition, the budget proposal provides $1.6 million to SUNY child-care centers, a $653,000 restoration.