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Paterson releases state aid, offers new budget cuts

ALBANY—Gov. Paterson released his proposed budget at press time, Tuesday, Jan. 19. The governor’s office featured a budget presentation on its Web site. In the presentation, Paterson proposed a five percent reduction, or $1.1 billion, in state aid to schools. Schools in lower income areas would see less of a cut than higher income area schools.
This reduction is part of many other proposals to erase a $7.4 billion state operating deficit. This also comes on the heels of Paterson announcing, Thursday, Jan. 14, that he would release state aid that was previously withheld in December.
For Penn Yan, the released state aid funds equal $110,617.89. Doug Tomandl, assistant superintendent of business for Penn Yan Central School District, said if Paterson now withholds the STAR rebate funds, Penn Yan would be out $300,000. He explained that is 19 percent of the rebate Penn Yan is expecting.
Tomandl added Penn Yan has not received any STAR funds from October onwards, because the district did not need them at the time. He explained that since other school districts have gotten some of the funds already, it would not truly be the same percent of funds withheld from all schools.
Tomandl said the current uncertain situation is hard on the schools trying to prepare budgets for next school year. He said not knowing how much money the school has or will have, makes it hard for planning purposes.
Melissa Lawson, business manager for Dundee Central School District, said the school has been waiting for Paterson to release his budget, in order to work on Dundee’s budget. She added that there are several areas where costs are still unknown.
Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips said that until the district actually gets the check, Watkins Glen will not know how much is being released and from where. Phillips explained the governor’s office owes Watkins Glen close to $1.5 million in state, federal, and STAR rebate funds.
“We’ve not received any confirmation the money was released,” said Phillips.
He explained for Watkins Glen, the funds include the state aid from December. Paterson withheld $96,587 from Watkins Glen Central School District then. Phillips said the district is still owed just over $1 million in STAR rebate funds. The final chunk of funding is federal funds, that go through the governor’s office. Phillips said Watkins did not get $230,000 in federal funds either.
Odessa-Montour Superintendent Jim Frame said Paterson withheld $55,000 from the district in December in state aid. Because of that, the district underwent a spending freeze.
“With the funds being released we’re OK,” said Frame. However, he said if STAR funds are withheld, Odessa would not get $129,000. He explained that currently, Odessa-Montour has enough in reserve funds to deal with withheld funds.
“It’s not good to live paycheck to paycheck,” added Frame.
Dec. 16, a lawsuit against Gov. Paterson was filed because of the withheld December funds. It was filed by the New York State United Teachers, New York State School Boards Association, New York State Council of School Superintendents, and the School Administration of New York.

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