Cahill Touts Historic Funding Levels for Education

April 1, 2007

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) announced today that the final state budget makes an historic investment in New York’s education system, providing an unprecedented $1.7 billion increase in state aid. The school aid package is built on a new formula that steers money to needy districts while assuring others at least modest increases. The spending plan also includes $1.3 billion in school property tax relief targeted towards middle-income families and nearly $200 million more for the SUNY and the state’s community colleges.

“We have adopted meaningful school financing reform that signals an end to the days of politically-motivated distribution of education funding,” said Mr. Cahill. “Working toward the promise that each and every child has access to the same excellent education regardless of where they live, how high their family's income is or how much their property is valued, should always be our top priority and this budget is a giant leap towards that goal.”

The education financing package when combined with enhanced property tax relief targeted to middle-income families will help to reduce the burden on local taxpayers. “While the budget has not gone so far as to eliminate the use of regressive real estate taxes for the purposes of funding education, a proposal that I have been advocating for many years, it provides a huge and necessary increase in state aid and more than doubles property tax rebates moving us that much closer to a solution to the tax crisis that is destabilizing our communities,” said Mr. Cahill.

Schools in the 101st Assembly District will receive nearly $12 million more than last year:

  • Kingston will receive an increase of $4,619,670
  • Rondout Valley will receive an increase of $1,523,338
  • New Paltz will receive an increase of $619,758
  • Onteora will receive an increase of $150,677
  • Wallkill will receive an increase of $2,645,899
  • Ellenville will receive an increase of $1,945,865
  • Rhinebeck will receive an increase of $455,471

The Onteora Central School District will also be receiving another $100,000 in addition to the $150,000 boost over last year’s state-aid. Assemblymember Cahill fought diligently to secure the extra aid for the school district to help offset a reduction in the state’s share of transportation aid.

Property Tax Relief

Addressing property tax relief, the state spending plan includes a $1.3 billion expansion of the STAR rebate program enacted last year. The tax relief will be distributed based on a sliding income scale providing ninety-five percent of homeowners statewide with additional tax relief. Eligible residents in Ulster and Dutchess with incomes of less than $90,000 will see a 60% increase in savings, those earning more than $90,000 but less than $150,000 can expect a 45% bump and people making between $150,000 and $250,000 will see their benefits enhanced by 30%.

“It is promising that the state’s leaders have begun to tackle the issue of skyrocketing property taxes, but until we move towards a state takeover of education funding, I am afraid that our efforts will amount to nothing more that band-aid covering up a problem that is quickly crippling our communities,” Assemblymember Cahill said. “Traditionally, under STAR, a larger percentage of funds are distributed to the wealthiest school districts while ignoring the fact that residents located in the poorest school districts – the ones with the least ability to pay – are forced to dedicate the highest percentage of their income to fund their local schools.” Also, homeowners with the same incomes and home values often receive very different STAR savings, based on where they live. The greatest inequity built into the program allows STAR to ignore commercial properties and multifamily dwellings. As a result, businesses and landlords – and ultimately renters – are discriminated against.

Higher Education

College students and their families fared well in the final budget. The Legislature accepted Governor Spitzer’s plan to establish a new Commission on Public Higher Education that will develop comprehensive recommendations for achieving academic excellence, enhanced access and economic development opportunities. This year’s budget will freeze tuition at the current level, commit close to an additional $160 million for SUNY operating costs, nearly $12 million more than initially proposed in the Executive Budget. That additional funding will allow SUNY New Paltz to recruit more top level full-time faculty. The budget also adds another $30 million in funding for community colleges when compared to last year.

On the capital side, the plan includes $10.74 million to complete the renovation of Old Main and continues funding the ongoing expansion of the Student Union Building on the SUNY New Paltz campus. The Senate refused to include the funding for the New Paltz Sojourner Truth Library and Ulster County Community College that Assemblymember Cahill was successful at securing in the Assembly’s version of the budget which was passed at the beginning of March. “I am disappointed that we could not find a partner in the Senate that was willing to fight for this important funding,” said Mr. Cahill.

Assemblymember Cahill, a SUNY New Paltz graduate, has always been strong advocate for the university. Since being elected to the Assembly, Mr. Cahill has been instrumental in securing $23 million for the renovation of Old Main, $10 million for the expansion of the Student Union Building as well as the funding for the new multi-million dollar athletic facility on campus.

Overall, the Mr. Cahill was pleased with the higher education budget, saying, “The key to reestablishing the vibrancy of New York’s economy can be found in the halls of our public institutions of higher learning and Governor Spitzer understands that. I am confident that we will be able to work together to enhance the quality and affordability of our public universities which in turn will lead to greater prosperity for all New Yorkers.”