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Cuomo Calls for 10 Percent Cut in State School Aid

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Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York has proposed slashing state aid to public schools by 10 percent as part of an effort to close a $6-billion gap in the state budget.

The Governor included the $891-million school-aid reduction in a 1991-1992 budget package calling for $4.5 billion in spending cuts, which he sent to the legislature late last month.

The state faces a $900-million deficit this fiscal year and a projected shortfall next year of $5.1 billion.

Mr. Cuomo also called for a reduction of the state workforce by 18,000 employees, or 10 percent of the total; a $468-million, or 50 percent, cut in state revenue-sharing with local governments; abolition of dozens of state agencies and commissions; and elimination of the state's Regents and Empire State college-scholarship programs.

To help generate more state revenue, the Governor called for $706 million in higher taxes and fees, including tuition increases at state universities.

Mr. Cuomo acknowledged that the reductions he had proposed were "stunning," but argued that "the devastating effects of the recession leave us no better alternative."

While noting that state aid to schools has increased by 70 percent--nearly twice the rate of inflation--since 1983, the Governor said he would try to cushion school districts from the impact of his cuts by lifting several state mandates costing up to $300 million annually.

School officials, teachers'-union representatives, and several state legislators last week said they had already braced themselves for cuts in education in light of the state's fiscal woes. But they added that they were surprised by the severity of the proposed reductions, and vowed to scale them back.

"School districts have two sources of revenue--state aid and property taxes. For many districts that have tightened their belts as far as they will go, the Governor's proposal could drive property taxes sky high," said Jess J. Present, the Republican chairman of the state Senate education committee.

Many school districts are still recovering from a $190-million cut in state school aid enacted in December, Senator Present added.

Joseph A. Fernandez, chancellor of New York City Public Schools, said the state-aid cuts could result in an additional $151-million reduction in the city education budget, from which Mayor David N. Dinkins already has proposed trimming half a billion dollars.

But a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Ralph J. Marino, a Long Island Republican, argued that the Governor's proposed method for distributing the school-aid reductions would fall hardest on suburban and upstate districts.--ps

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