Orange County lawmakers, education officials push back against school districts budget cuts

Originally published in News12 Westchester on .
Sen. Skoufis speaking in front of Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School.
Gov. Kathy Hochul is receiving fierce bipartisan blowback to her proposal to cut state-aid to certain school districts in the state budget.
"Her proposal around state aid to schools was short-sighted," State Sen. James Skoufis said during a press conference at Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School in Goshen Friday.
Skoufis, a Democrat, was joined by Republican Assemblyman Karl Brabenec and superintendents of six local school districts, all who are fighting the governor's proposed cuts.
In her draft budget, Gov. Hochul is seeking to cancel a provision that guarantees that each year schools never receive less state aid than they did the year before.
It is known as the "Hold Harmless" provision.
The governor is proposing cuts to state aid for nearly half of the state's school districts based on several factors including enrollment.
State aid, officially called foundation aid, is most districts' second biggest funding source behind property tax revenue.
"Over our dead bodies will we allow the governor's proposal to wind up in the final budget," Skoufis said.
If the funding changes stick, some districts could be forced to cut programs and/or staff, especially now that they are no longer receiving federal pandemic aid.
The state Assembly and Senate released their own draft budgets that keep the school funding formula as it is, cut other state programs, increase taxes for the state's wealthiest residents, and draw on reserves.
The state budget is supposed to be finalized by April 1, though an extension is possible.
School districts must have their budgets completed by early May.
Skoufis said negotiations with the governor's office are going well.
State officials said they are negotiating fairly.
“Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget makes record-setting investments in New York’s future while ensuring the state remains on a stable long-term fiscal trajectory," said Tim Ruffinen, budget division spokesperson, in an email, "and she will work with the Legislature to craft a final budget that achieves these goals.”