At the beginning of the month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the statewide public school district budget votes would be done exclusively through mail-in ballots and June 9 would be the official election day.
For school districts, which at that point only knew that the normal mid-May budget voting day had been postponed indefinitely, getting an actual date was a welcomed development. A new set of school budget formation deadlines (though still not easy to find on any state government website) was now possible to create. And that allowed for the important business of finalizing the 2020-21 spending plans that would be put before voters.
Based on the calendar, this coming week — May 18-22 — is the time those budget approvals must be done by school boards and sent to the state for its compilations. But most districts have not been able to do this yet because Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget division, at least through the close of business on Friday, had not provided updated figures on how much state aid districts should plan to receive.
As part of this year's finalized budget, the state Legislature gave the administration broad power to make cuts in aid to local governments if the coronavirus pandemic's economic impact warranted. The governor and his budget director have indicated for weeks that such cuts, as much as 20%, may be coming. But they still haven't delivered any specifics.
For a governor who has often bragged about his great record getting on-time state budgets passed, this sure feels like a return to the days when chronically late state budgets meant school spending plans often had to be formed without one of the most important revenue sources included: money from Albany.
As things stand this weekend, districts will have no choice but to plan for the worst. Expect to hear about massive layoffs and perhaps major cuts in non-mandated programs such as arts, music and athletics.
Cuomo and the state Legislature have been quiet on this for a reason. They don't want to deal with New Yorkers who will be livid that once again, just like in the 2008 Great Recession, public school students will suffer a disproportionate amount of the consequences.
We suggest parents, students, teachers, staff and anyone else who values their local school district contact the governor's office, the state Senate majority leader, the Assembly speaker and your local senator and Assembly member. Tell them that passing much of the burden onto the public education system isn't acceptable.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.
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