Legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are moving toward a budget agreement that would increase school aid by $1.1 billion, install a two-year property-tax freeze and delay implementation of new testing standards for students.
The agreement is expected to be finalized Friday in advance the 2014-15 fiscal year that starts Tuesday.
Cuomo has pressed for a two-year, property-tax freeze that would require local governments and schools to cap property taxes and then in year two agree to cut the tax levy. In exchange, homeowners would get a rebate check that averages about $350 a year.
Cuomo’s plan, though, is expected to be modified in the final budget deal. Lawmakers said the changes would allow local governments and schools who have shared services in recent years to qualify for the tax rebate.
Also, schools and local governments would have to develop a plan to share services, but it would not be pegged to any specific cuts in the tax levy, legislators said.
The changes would seek to address concerns by local officials and some lawmakers that the freeze would lead to reductions in services and programs.
“It’s close to what the governor’s program is, but it has some modifications that will make most of us who are concerned about its implementation less concerned,” said Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, Ulster County.
The $138 billion budget would also increase school aid by about $300 million more than Cuomo proposed Jan. 21. Cuomo proposed an increase of $807 million, or nearly 4 percent, to a total of about $22 billion.
Another $340 million would be designated for full-day, pre-kindergarten statewide. But $300 million of it is expected to go to New York City to appease Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made the program a top priority and wanted to raise taxes on the rich to fund it – something Cuomo and Republicans opposed.
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, said lawmakers and staff members were still working on language Thursday evening that would delay the use of Common Core-based test scores in grade-promotion decisions for students in grades 3 through 8.
The delay is expected to be for two years, but not impact the use of the tests on teacher evaluations — which unions were pushing for.
Lawmakers said another change would be to allow an upstate manufacturing tax credit proposed by Cuomo to be expanded statewide. Some downstate lawmakers wanted their regions included in the budget deal.
Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, Monroe County, said he was comfortable with the change.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing for upstate because it’s a good thing for all New York,” Robach said. “The good news is the impact won’t be that large because the vast majority of manufacturing that’s left is in upstate New York.”