Town & County: Some LI school aid is restored in state budget

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo.

As expected, lawmakers in Albany approved a 2011-12 New York State budget last Thursday, March 30, meeting the often-ignored April 1 deadline for the first time in five years.

The $132.5 billion state budget carries a 2 percent spending reduction from the previous year, something that has not been done since 1995.

The spending plan also closes a $10 billion budget gap without borrowing or raising taxes, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor released a statement announcing the budget’s passage.

“I have said that New York is at a crossroads — one road leading to further dysfunction and decline, the other towards fiscal responsibility and government efficiency,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I believe this budget puts us on the right path.”

The budget also calls for the elimination of 3,700 prison beds and cuts of $170 million in funding to the state Office of Court Administration, although it restores $86 million to the State University of New York and the City University of New York.

Mr. Cuomo and legislative leaders have also agreed to restore some $272 million of the originally proposed $1.5 billion reduction in aid to New York schools. Approximately $45 million was restored to Long Island schools.

“I fully expect that the dollars restored to the education budget will be put into the classroom,” said state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). “This is the time to start redesigning the education process so that taxpayers are getting the maximum investment for their dollars.”

The Shelter Island School will receive $438,390 in state aid, down 7.9 percent from the 2010-2011 budget.

The $272 million in state education aid includes restoration of funding for schools for the blind and deaf and summer school special education.

Also included in the budget are restorations approved by the environment, agriculture and housing subcommittee that Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) said will strengthen Long Island’s wine and farm industries.

Some $500,000 will be restored to the Integrated Pest Management Program and $713,000 to the Wine and Grape Foundation.

“The state must continue to provide the support and resources necessary to ensure [agriculture] can continue to thrive as an engine of economic growth and job creation,” Mr. Losquadro said.

Mr. Cuomo thanked both Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for working together in crafting the budget.

“This budget makes tough choices, which is what you sent me to Albany to do,” he said.