New York Lawmakers weigh in on proposed State budget
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was scheduled to lead off a lineup of local government officials from around the state to weigh in on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget on Monday.
Cuomo has proposed keeping municipal aid flat, but has offered some ways to help municipalities out of their fiscal crises. Monday's legislative hearing is part of budget talks leading up to the start of new fiscal year on April 1. Cuomo is offering the same $715 million in unrestricted aid for the 2013-14 fiscal year as local governments are getting this year, even as many outside New York City slip deeper into fiscal crisis.
He also plans to direct billions of dollars in federal money to New York City and Long Island for the recovery from Superstorm Sandy. But New York City faces an Albany-created bind that is expected to cost city schools up to $450 million in state and federal aid. Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers couldn't agree on a teacher evaluation required by state law by last week's deadline, which Cuomo refused to extend.
Ninety-nine percent of the state's 700 school districts met the deadline for putting teacher and principal evaluations in place. The evaluations were part of a package of education reforms included in the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" competition among states. New York schools were awarded $700 million.
Upstate and Long Island local officials are expected to discuss the governor's proposal to help municipalities deal with their fiscal crises. Cuomo has said the state can't provide bailouts to municipalities facing possible insolvency, but he proposes allowing municipalities to borrow against expected savings from a new pension tier for new hires. Without the measure, municipalities and the state won't see most of the lower costs of the new pension tier adopted last year for 10 to 20 years or more.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who is also the co-chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, criticized the plan last week in a rare conflict with the popular and powerful Democratic governor. She said borrowing to pay for current operations is risky and unwise, because future economic pressures are too uncertain to bank on.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, a Republican, supports Cuomo's proposal and his budget as it affects local governments. Cuomo's other proposals for local governments include:
- A bonus to encourage municipalities to consolidate services with neighboring towns, villages or cities, or to dissolve. The measure would direct most of the savings to property tax relief.
- A $40 million competitive fund for governments to win up to $5 million for actions that improve efficiency.
- Maintaining flat revenue for local governments from other state programs, including video slot machine revenue at racetracks.
- The Big Five school districts - New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers - which fund schools through city aid would get a share of increases. Cuomo proposes an average school aid increase of 3 percent in traditional school aid, which can rise to 4.4 percent when competitive grant programs and other funding is included.