Impact of state budget passage felt locally


By Joe Moskowitz
New York State is on a budget roll. Governor Andrew Cuomo says that for three years in a row now, the state has a budget in place and on time. The spending increase is less than two percent more than last year. And, the budget is balanced.

The $136 billion spending plan was passed just prior to the April 1 deadline and means that the state expects to have enough money to pay its bills this year. The state still has long-term debt of more than $300 billion.

Following are some of the highlights of the state’s new budget.
Family Tax Relief. Families with at least one child and an income of between $40,000 and $300,000 per year will get a $350 tax credit. The check will arrive in the mail just prior to the 2014 fall elections.

Higher Minimum Wage. It is now $7.25 per hour, but will increase to $8 by the end of 2013, $8.75 by the end of 2014, and $9 by the end of 2015.

Teacher rewards
In addition to increased state aid for schools, the new budget sets aside $11 million to reward higher-performing teachers. The best teachers would receive $15,000 stipends for four years. Additionally, the state plans to implement a “Bar Exam” to raise the standards for a teacher to get certification. Neither the governor nor the budget bill indicates how it would be determined who the best teachers are or how the “Bar Exam” would be administered.

The new budget also includes the first increase in five years in funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program. CHIPS will get an additional $75 million.

Pension mandate
One of the more controversial elements of the new budget is a pension mandate relief. Governments, including schools, face increased spending while sometimes reducing services because of rising pension costs. The new budget allows them to pay a reduced amount and defer some of the payments.

State Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli, a Democrat like the governor, was critical of the plan as 25 years from now it could leave local governments with pension obligations that won’t be able to afford.

Locally, Margaretville Central School Superintendent Tony Albanese said it is too risky and he doesn’t know of any school that is going to accept the relief.

Middletown Supervisor Marjorie Miller, who also serves on the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, says it only affects Tier 6 workers. Tier Six is the retirement plan for newly hired employees and since Delaware County has been under a hiring freeze, it would have no impact. She says maybe in a few years, when the plan is better explained, it could be considered.