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NYSUT calls out tax cap

Area legislators ask for increased state aid to schools

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi talks to the media Wednesday, Feb. 20, after the union filed a legal challenge to the state's property tax cap law.

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi talks to the media Wednesday, Feb. 20, after the union filed a legal challenge to the state's property tax cap law.

— NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said it was merely coincidental that lawmakers requested more education funding the same day the union filed its lawsuit.

“The state has shifted the burden of paying for education on the back of local property taxpayers,” Korn said. “Now it has put in place a property tax cap that is devastating to schools in the Capital Region.”

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, stressed securing more state aid is important this budget cycle, even in light of the lawsuit.

“Even if NYSUT was to prevail tomorrow it does not negate the need for (additional) state aid,” Fahy said. “I am sympathetic to what NYSUT is trying to do, but I don’t want to lose my focus on state aid. … I think their lawsuit probably has some merit.”

Fahy, a former member of the Albany school board, believes the lawsuit “does have a point” in challenging the supermajority requirement for school district budgets exceeding the tax cap. Many area school districts have spoken out against the requirement, which means budgets above the cap must pass by at least 60 percent instead of by a simple majority.

NYSUT’s lawsuit detailed declining state aid to schools, a $1.86 billion drop from 2008-09 to 2011-12 school years. The 2011-12 school year funding saw the state providing around 39.7 percent of school expenses statewide. NYSUT said previously the state’s portion of school funding on average across all districts was between 41 to 47 percent.

“Across New York State, superintendents, board members, educators and families fear that their schools will never again be able to match the opportunities they are providing to students now,” said Robert Reidy, executive director of the state Council of School Superintendents, in a statement. “Financial and educational insolvency are on the horizon for many districts.”

Cuomo’s 2013 spending proposal increased education aid by $889 million, or 4.4 percent, which Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, commended the governor for providing, but also Steck joined area legislators petitioning for additional funding.

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