Senate Passes Education Budget

James L. Seward

March 15, 2005

The state senate has passed the 2005-06 education budget,which provides for an increase of $626 million in formula driven and other educational assistance to schools across New York State. The senate budget adds $425 million to the governor’s proposed $201 million increase over last year. The senate proposes setting aside $325 million in Sound Basic Education Aid proposed by the executive in a special reserve fund for education. In total, the plan would provide over $16 billion in aid to schools.

The plan also includes a previous senate proposal to provide nearly a billion in direct school property tax relief to homeowners by protecting and enhancing the STAR property tax relief plan.
"Our budget proposal reaffirms our bedrock commitment to education by continuing our record increase in state school aid. Since 1995, we have increased school aid by over 50 percent, which is double the rate of inflation," said Senator Bruno. "The school districts in this state will receive a nearly four percent increase in operating aid that will enable them to provide a world class education, while our property tax relief plan will ensure that additional funding is used to help keep a lid on taxes for homeowners and small businesses."

"If we did not respond by adding this additional funding to the governor's proposed budget we would have seen the obligation for school aid fall on local homeowners and businesses," said Senator Stephen Saland (R-C, Poughkeepsie), chairman of the Senate Education Committee. "The restoration we are advancing in our budget would not only give our schools the opportunity to reduce anticipated school tax increases, but would allow us to continue programs vital to the quality of education in New York State."

Keeping School Property Taxes Under Control
The senate’s property tax relief proposal would send $990 million in direct school property tax relief checks to eligible homeowners when phased in over five years, in addition to the current STAR exemption. The program would offset the effects of inflation on the original STAR program and replace regressive school property taxes with state broad-based tax revenues. By providing direct rebate checks after school taxes are paid, this enhancement does not disguise the immediate tax impact of a proposed school budget increase so that voters can make intelligent decisions on their public school spending plans.

The plan also provides an additional 30 percent increase in the STAR enhanced exemption for eligible senior citizens commencing in the 2005-06 school year, growing to 36 percent in 2009-10. Since the 2005-06 rebate is based on the amount of STAR the eligible senior citizen received in 2004-05, the rebate checks will be mailed by October 31, 2005 to help pay the 2005-06 school tax bill. All other eligible homeowners receiving the basic STAR exemption will begin receiving STAR rebate checks in the fall of 2006 to equal 18 percent of the prior year’s basic exemption. This amount will grow to 25 percent in 2007-08, 30 percent in 2008-09 and 36 percent in 2009-10.

Supporting Our Public Schools

The senate’s aid plan would give schools the resources they need to successfully educate our children by providing $580 million in additional school aid funding, including the following additional funding:
-Flex aid ($259 million)-- The senate provides additional operating aid by increasing the executive's flex aid minimum and maximum districts can receive. In addition, the senate education plan provides $35.5 million in additional operating aid to the poorest school districts in the state;
-Special education funding ($75 million)-- The senate fully restores private excess cost aid;
-BOCES and special services aids ($42 million)-- The senate fully restores BOCES and special services aid.
-Building Aid ($25.5 million)-- The senate rejects executive proposals and makes other provisions to ensure that school construction projects are properly funded and
-Tax limitation aid ($71.6 million)-- The senate accepts the executive’s proposal for tax limitation aid and adds additional funding for school districts which make a strong effort on educational spending.

Present law funding is provided for transportation aid; growth aid; full day kindergarten; universal pre-K; class size reduction; instructional materials aid, teacher support aid, centers and mentor intern program; categorical reading; improving pupil performance; magnet schools; and bilingual education.

Ensuring a Sound Basic Education
The senate education plan sets aside $325 million in Sound Basic Education Aid, which was proposed by the executive. The revenue supporting this program will remain in an unappropriated reserve which could be utilized to finance any future legislative agreement.

Other education aid highlights
The senate’s 2005-06 education budget bill provides also additional funding for the following:
-Public libraries operating aid ($4.47 million);
-Public libraries construction aid ($2 million);
-Public television and radio ($692,000);
-Apprenticeship training ($265,300);
-Consortium for workers' education ($1.15 million);
-Workplace literacy ($199,500)