Cuomo Belt-Tightening Plan Seen Pressuring Local Units

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Public schools in New York State would receive only a 3 percent increase in state aid next year--less than the projected rate of inflation--under a stringent budget proposed last week by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.

The Governor's annual budget message also called for local governments to shoulder greater financial responsibility for a broad range of programs, from Medicaid to prisons. They should be given greater taxing authority to enable them to do so, Mr. Cuomo said.

The proposals, which reflect the state's pressing financial difficulties, have drawn fire from school officials and legislative leaders.

If approved, the Governor's spending blueprint for the next fiscal year would "require significant service cuts," representing "a serious setback" for New York City's schoolchildren, the district's chancellor, Richard R. Green, said in a statement.

City school officials charged that the proposed budget would result in an even smaller increase for their system than the modest overall hike sought by Mr. Cuomo. They estimated that the district would receive only a 1 percent increase in state education aid at a time when costs are rising by 5 percent annually.

"In areas where we cannot afford to stand still, such as maintenance, this budget forces us to move back4ward," Mr. Green said.

The legislature has consistently allocated more money for education than Governor Cuomo has requested in his six previous budget proposals. Aid increases have averaged almost 10 percent a year during that period.

Effect of Current Shortfall

But efforts to find additional money to spend next year will be complicated by the fact that the new budget will also have to make up for any shortfall in the current budget. Governor Cuomo asked the legislature to borrow $300 million as part of his plan to help close a deficit currently estimated at almost $1 billion.

To avert a deficit in next year's budget, the Governor proposed raising $800 million through increased taxes and fees, cutting $500 million from projected state operating expenses, and reducing projected support for local governments by $700 million.

If the Governor's budget is approved, observers said, school officials in districts where city officials control school budgets may face particularly difficult budget negotiations. In such districts, which include New York City and Buffalo, school-funding requests would have to compete with the new financial responsibilities shifted from the state level.--ws

Vol. 08, Issue 18

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