Archive for the 'Finance' Category

Fix the Tax Cap

March 10th, 2019 by Robert Lowry

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been saying that he will not approve a 2019-20 budget for the state unless the property tax cap is made permanent. He reiterated that message this past week in columns in Long Island’s Newsday, the Lower Hudson Valley’s Journal News, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and the Buffalo News.

The New York State Council of School Superintendents takes the position that the tax cap needs to be amended, if it is to be made permanent. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Council’s analysis of Governor Cuomo’s public school funding proposals

March 3rd, 2019 by Robert Lowry

Earlier this week we released our annual analysis of the public school funding proposals in Governor Cuomo’s 2019-20 proposed state budget.

Here are some of the key observations:

The Budget recommends a $338 million increase in Foundation Aid; at that rate more than 10 years would be required to fully phase-in the permanent law Foundation Aid formula. Enactment of the current proposal would leave the state $3.78 billion behind in phasing-in that formula.

The distribution of the proposed Foundation Aid increase is generally progressive, giving larger percentage aid increases to lower wealth, higher poverty districts. But a fifth of the state’s school districts would remain more than 25 percent below their full phase-in amounts; these districts are predominantly average wealth or below and their increases would average less than 1 percent.

Based on past trends, the proposal to consolidate 11 aid categories, including Transportation and BOCES Aids, into a new “Services Aid” formula will almost certainly result in most districts receiving less help from the state when the formula would go into effect (in 2020-21). The proposed growth factor in the formula is unlikely to keep pace with exceptional costs districts cannot control, such as the need to pay higher fuel costs or to transport more children to charter schools or out-of-district special education programs. The impact on BOCES shared services could be especially damaging for poor districts which rely upon them to provide students with opportunities they could not offer alone.

The Budget proposes to enable the state to require districts to reallocate funds to schools deemed “under-funded” and “high-need” relative to other schools within the district. But not every funding disparity is an inequity – insignificant differences in teacher experience could produce large spending differences among schools, for example. The proposal would supersede judgments by local educators and elected school boards with a clumsy state formula likely to require pointless reallocations, aggravate some parents, and satisfy no one.

The school property tax cap should not be made permanent without change, including allowing districts to exclude the local share of BOCES capital costs from the cap, as they can exclude the local share of district capital costs, and to realize revenue outside the cap from tax base growth generating payments in lieu of taxes, as they can now do with growth generating property tax revenue. These are commonsense adjustments, not major changes. They would provide similar treatment for similar considerations – two forms of capital expenditures and two forms of tax base growth.

The report was distributed to state legislators earlier in the week.

Past editions of the Council’s annual budget analysis can be found here.

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New York’s public schools need a financial sustainability agenda

January 12th, 2018 by Robert Lowry

Earlier this week we sent all Assemblymembers and Senators our report, “A Sustainability Agenda for New York’s Public Schools.”

The report begins,

New York’s state constitution promises “…a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated.” Due in part to actions being taken by the federal government, the state’s fiscal outlook now is exceptionally uncertain. More than ever, New York’s public schools need action on an agenda to promote a more financially sustainable future and to enable them to fulfill the promise of our constitution.

It recommends four sets of actions: Read the rest of this entry »

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Prepayment of School Property Taxes — Updated Information

December 28th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Below is the guidance the Council sent out Tuesday (December 26) to its members on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to facilitate prepayment of property taxes to enable taxpayers to benefit from deductibility on their 2017 federal tax returns. We are supplementing it here with additional information arising from new guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service late yesterday afternoon.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Regents Report — December 2017

December 17th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

The Council started something new last week — using Periscope to broadcast an update on issues in the news. Council Executive Director Charles Dedrick, Assistant Director Greg Berck and I discussed actions taken at the December meeting of the Board of Regents this past Monday and Tuesday.

You can watch the 10-minute video here. We plan on doing these videos on a regular basis going forward.

Below is a further report on some of the actions taken or discussed by the Regents last week, co-written by Greg and me. The full agenda and supporting materials can be found on the Regents website. To view agenda items, click on the committee name (e.g., P-12 Education). Read the rest of this entry »

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An Alarming Report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

November 8th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Last week, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report warning that state finances face “a triple threat of fiscal risks” from the combination of “projected budget gaps, weaker than expected personal income tax collections and cuts to federal programs.”

Yesterday, the Comptroller issued a new report amplifying that warning. The report projects that current year state revenues will fall $1.848 billion below the total projected by the Division of the Budget (DOB) in August. Revenues for 2018-19 are projected to fall $2.828 billion short of the August DOB projections. DOB is the office which leads the development of the Governor’s budget proposals and the implementation of enacted state budgets.

In August, DOB forecast a structural deficit of $4 billion for state fiscal year 2018-19. As I noted in an earlier blog post, a $4 billion deficit equates to about 4 percent of projected expenditures supported by state taxes, fees, the Lottery and other state sources. The Comptroller’s additional projected revenue shortfall for 2018-19 would raise next year’s structural deficit to $6.8 billion. Adding the current year shortfall would increase the gap for next year to $8.6 billion. Read the rest of this entry »

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State Budget Outlook, More Information Due Soon

November 1st, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Yesterday, State Comptroller DiNapoli released a report warning that the state faces a “triple threat of fiscal risks” from the combination of “projected budget gaps, weaker than expected personal income tax collections and cuts to federal programs.” Read the rest of this entry »

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SALT and Schools

November 1st, 2017 by Robert Lowry

New York State had a narrow escape from potential catastrophe when Republican efforts in Washington to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act failed once again in September. The Cassidy-Graham proposal would have stripped billions of dollars in Medicaid funding from the state budget and jeopardized health care coverage for an estimated 2.7 million New Yorkers, including perhaps one million children.

A new threat has emerged in the form of federal tax reform. Last week the House of Representatives passed an outline of federal budget for 2017-18 which envisioned ending deductibility of state and local taxes, referred to as “SALT.” Any reduction in SALT deductibility would be damaging for New York State and ultimately for schools. House leadership now plans to release its actual tax reform legislation this week. Read the rest of this entry »

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We’re Number 1. Again. Why?

July 27th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Yesterday, the Empire Center for Public Policy issued a paper on “NY’s Stratospheric School Spending.”

Here is a piece we published in December 2015 exploring why New York’s per pupil education spending ranks first in the nation.

Among the factors we cite are:

• New York is high cost in many things, not just education, and is part of a high cost region.

• New Yorkers appear to value public services, or at least are accustomed to a high level of services.

• New York is also home to some public schools which provide phenomenal opportunities for students.

• As a whole, the state makes a stronger effort to fund pension obligations than most other states.

• Finally, New York has rules — mandates — which no other state has and those help drive up costs. As we conclude,

Keeping all current school mandates in place and complaining about school costs is like tying a runner’s shoes together, then complaining he or she doesn’t run fast enough

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A Disappointing Court Ruling on School Finance

June 30th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

In 2014, the Council of School Superintendents joined New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER), a coalition bringing a lawsuit alleging that then recent state actions in school finance violated the state constitution’s Education Article, as interpreted in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decisions issued by the state’s highest court in 1995, 2003, and 2006.

NYSER’s suit argued that, by failing to follow through on the implementation the Foundation Aid formula and other reforms enacted following the final ruling in the CFE case, the state has been denying schoolchildren the opportunity for a sound basic education as promised in its constitution.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, ruled the NYSER’s claims that students in New York City and Syracuse are being denied the opportunity for a sound basic education could go to trial and that NYSER could rely upon the CFE decision in its arguments.

But the decision is nonetheless disappointing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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