Gov. Hochul announces budget agreement increasing school funding

Gov. Hochul announces budget agreement increasing school funding
Gov. Kathy Hochul. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a budget agreement with the state legislative leaders Tuesday that includes an increase of $1.3 billion in school aid and reinstates the hold harmless policy, a historical procedure that ensured districts received the same amount or more state aid from year to year

“I promised to fight the right fights for New Yorkers, deliver common sense solutions, and tackle the thorny issues that others might ignore, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Hochul said. “We’re delivering on a common-sense agenda: fighting crime, fixing our mental health system and building more housing so people can finally afford to live in New York.”

The governor’s initial budget proposal included $35.3 billion in state school aid. Under the agreement, this would rise by about $600 million.

The total amount devoted to school aid now adds up to $35.9 billion overall, with $24.9 billion attributed to foundation aid – the main source of school funding by the state.

Foundation aid was created in the wake of a 2006 state court decision that determined the state was violating children’s rights by not providing an equitable education across the state. To address the issue, school funding was increased.

The state is making strides to overhaul its foundation aid formula for the first time, with the state Legislature approving a study to be conducted on the formula.

Under the governor’s initial budget proposal in January, the hold harmless protocol was nixed and many school districts saw drops in their foundation aid for the first time since its implementation.

The reinstatement of hold harmless comes after months of pushback by local schools that resisted their drops in foundation aid. Many school districts spoke of the financial strain it imposed on their district as rising costs also put pressure on their budgets.

This included the Manhasset School District, which drafted a budget that was dependent on its foundation aid being reinstated.

Under the initial proposal, the Manhasset School District was receiving $629,000 less in its foundation aid with net losses in state aid adding up to ​​$511,000.

At about every budget presentation, Superintendent Gaurav Passi advocated for individuals to contact their local state legislators to push for foundation aid to be reinstated.

Many local lawmakers did respond to this pushback, including state Sen. Jack Martins and state Assemblymember Gina Sillitti, who advocated for school funding to be increased by the state.

The state’s total budget is now estimated at $237 billion and the governor said it is expected to be passed by the state Legislature. The budget passage deadline was April 1, with budget discussions delaying its passage for more than two weeks.

The budget proposal also does not raise income or business taxes. State reserves are maintained at 15%.

While the governor said the agreement is expected to pass, Newsday reported that some lawmakers called the announcement “premature” and that issues still exist that need to be resolved.

Also included is an agreement to address New York’s housing crisis that includes tax incentives for affordable housing, making the conversion of empty office spaces into housing easier, eliminating density caps that are outdated and new laws to protect tenants from price gouging.

Other highlights include a statewide tax incentive for multi-family housing, $2.6 billion for the third year of the five-year infrastructure improvement plan and at least $105 million for various mental health services and plans.

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