Senate Republicans Propose Mandate Relief in State Budget

Dean G. Skelos

April 03, 2009

Senate Democrats Vote Against Plan to Reign in School Spending and Provide Local Relief

Senate Republicans today introduced an amendment to budget legislation that would take measures to reign in runaway school spending, increase transparency within local school districts, and protect taxpayers from having to pick up the additional costs from unfunded mandates. Senate Democrats voted to defeat the amendment.

“Mandate relief is critically important to keep school districts’ costs in checks, increase transparency and accountability within our school districts, and to reign in the costs of local property taxes,” said Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos. “Yet, the budget proposal we are being asked to vote on today provides no mandate relief measures. Our amendment would put forth several, commonsense proposals that will help reign in school spending and provide relief to New York’s hardworking taxpayers.”

“Rising school taxes remain the single biggest burden facing homeowners throughout the state,” said Senator John Flanagan, ranking member of the Senate Education Committee. “We cannot truly control the tax burden without reigning in spending by our school districts – this amendment proposes several mandate relief measures that will help school districts control their spending and make our districts more accountable, which will help ease the property tax crisis we are facing in this state right now.”

“Taxpayers have been clamoring for relief from the crushing burden of property taxes for many years,” said Senator Steve Saland. “I have long been a strong advocate for mandate relief for schools and local governments as part of the much needed reform of our property tax system. There has never been a more important time to provide this long overdue relief. But this budget, negotiated in secret by three New York City Democrats, raises taxes and does absolutely nothing to help struggling property taxpayers at the very time they need it the most. It’s disgraceful.”

The amendment introduced by the Senate Republicans includes the following proposals:

A ban on unfunded mandates to prevent the Legislature from imposing a mandate whose fiscal implications are greater than $10,000 to a municipality, or in excess of $1 million when combined statewide.

A ban on mandates to school districts that have fiscal implications, in order to allow for proper budgeting and planning.

A “paperwork reduction act” to eliminate duplicate and burdensome reports.

Energy audits that will make recommendations for alternative energy plans that will save schools money. Any district choosing to implement the recommendations will receive 65 percent reimbursement on costs. If they choose not to implement the recommendations, they will be required to hold a public hearing to explain to the taxpayers why they have opted out of the recommendations.

Increased building aid for the construction of “green” buildings.

Incentives for districts that consolidate central maintenance and municipal services, including but not limited to lawn mowing, heating, venting, and air conditioning, and repair, maintenance, or trash collection.

Enhanced consolidation incentives for districts.

School superintendent sharing for smaller school districts with an enrollment of less than 1,000 students.

$100 million in relief for pension costs in excess of four percent outside of New York City. Up to 40 percent of this program will be used to pay for New York City pension costs in excess of four percent.

Authorize districts to construct joint facilities with other schools and municipalities.

Allow schools to use transportation CPI for two years in order to decrease contractual costs.

A Blue Ribbon Commission on Mandates in order to determine costs associated with mandates, establish alternative solutions to costly mandates, identify duplicate mandates that could be consolidated, and determine true savings from mandate relief.