Cuts to schools, other programs at stake

The state Senate and Assembly last week approved their versions of a budget for 2024-25, launching negotiations with Gov. Kathy Hochul over appropriations for school districts and municipal governments, roads and bridges and other local needs. 

Both chambers countered Hochul’s $233 billion proposal by approving on March 14 plans for $246 billion in spending. The Senate passed its plan, 41-20, with Rob Rolison, a Republican whose district includes Beacon and Philipstown, among the senators who voted no.

The Assembly passed its plan, 101-48, with support from Jonathan Jacobson, who represents Beacon, and Dana Levenberg, who represents Philipstown. Both are Democrats.

While the Senate and Assembly budgets differ, they each reject Hochul’s proposal to eliminate a provision that ensured school districts receive at least the same amount of Foundation Aid as they had the year before. 

Under Hochul’s proposal, the Beacon district would lose more than $1.2 million, or 6 percent, of its Foundation Aid, which is the main source of state funding for school districts, and the Garrison district would lose $234,000. 

Funding from Foundation Aid and other state sources last year accounted for 38 percent of Beacon’s $81.4 million budget and 9 percent of Garrison’s $12.6 million spending plan. If the governor’s proposal sticks, the Beacon district said it would have to consider cuts to mental health support, its pre-K program and extracurricular clubs.

“The proposed cuts, followed by weeks of political negotiation, leave districts like ours scrambling to plan around worst cases, with many assurances — but no guarantees — that funding will be restored,” the Beacon school board wrote in a letter to Hochul. 

By contrast, the Senate and Assembly budgets would increase Foundation Aid by at least 3 percent; boost spending for universal pre-K (in the Senate budget, by $150 million; in the Assembly, by $125 million), fund free school meals for all students and appropriate $1 million to study the formula used to distribute Foundation Aid. 

As negotiators for Hochul, the Senate and Assembly try to agree on a final budget before the start of the fiscal year on April 1, they also will wrangle over funding for bridge, road and water infrastructure projects; tuition assistance; proposals to expand child tax credits; and other changes to the governor’s plan. Among their differences: 

Clean water: The Senate and Assembly proposals restore $250 million in cuts to the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, increasing funding to $500 million. 

Child care support: Both chambers provide $220 million to supplement the wages of child care provider employees, bringing funding to $500 million. 

Child tax credits: The Assembly expands eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit for residents with children who earn from $49,084 to $56,067 annually for single filers and $66,819 to $78,976 for joint filers with three or more children. The Senate includes language replacing the Empire State Tax Credit with a Working Families Tax Credit of $550 per child to single filers earning under $75,000 annually and married joint filers under $130,000. The credit would decline by $20 for each $1,000 of income over those levels. 

Local aid: The Senate adds $210 million and the Assembly $100 million in funding for Aid and Incentives to Municipalities, which is unrestricted funding for cities, towns and villages. Hochul proposed $715 million. 

Tuition: Both chambers expand eligibility for the Tuition Assistance Program by raising the maximum annual income cap from $80,000 to $125,000, and raising the minimum award from $500 to $1,000. The changes amount to $138 million in the Senate budget and $118.3 million in the Assembly. 

Roads and bridges: The Senate and Assembly plans reverse a $60 million cut to the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program, which funds local road and bridge projects. The Senate goes further, adding $100 million, and the Assembly increases by $60 million funding for the PAVE-NY road resurfacing program.

Metro-North: The Assembly appropriates $50 million to establish a discount program for low-income riders on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. The Senate includes $20 million for resiliency projects on the Hudson Line and includes the FARES Act, which calls for peak-fare discounts to seniors and disabled riders on MTA commuter trains.

Long-term care: The Senate adds $11.3 million for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, a system of advocates for people living in adult-care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living programs. The Assembly restored $1.3 million in funding. Judy Farrell, a Philipstown Town Board member, is the ombudsman coordinator for Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties.

Jeff Simms and Joey Asher contributed reporting.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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