Angry New Yorker

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
The end is in sight ...

For any hope of tax relief in New York State given yesterday's report recommendation of an extra $14 billion over five years for the NYC school system comes to pass. [The full "Report and Recommendations of the Judicial Referees" document is available here as a PDF.]

So, where the hell is this extra money going to come from, when both NYS and NYC are teetering on the brink of fiscal implosion? The report doesn't say. And let's not forget that this initial largesse is then followed by an extra $5.8 billion a year after the fifth year. To put this obscene amount of money into a bit of perspective, remember that Congress authorized $87 billion for the Iraq war to pay for troop needs, and andhelp get an entire country of 25 million people on their feet. Granted that was an amount for one fiscal year, but according to the Referee's R&R, "in New York City, [there are] 1.1 million children, in more than 1,300 schools across five counties." (R&R of Judicial Referees, at 2). I rather doubt that figure, given there at most 8.5 to 9 million people in NYC -- not counting illegal aliens, who put a large strain on public services in the city.

Bottomline: there's only one place to get this money, namely, your pocket in the form of new taxes, "fees", tolls, tariffs, convenience charges, surcharges, etc., etc.. Mayor Bloomberg has been a major disappoint in the past year regarding education. He took office with the mantra that more money wasn't the solution to NYC's school woes. Now he's knuckled under to the teacher's union, who at this very moment is asking for a 14% salary increase (since they've been without a contract since last year), leaving it to Pataki to grow a spine and fight this nonsense.
For a comprehensive look at this situation, E.J. McMahon's article in today's NY Post Online, available here, notes:

Under one scenario, the state and city would agree to evenly divide the
cost of a court ruling modeled on the referees' report. Including the debt
service on new capital borrowing, that would require Albany and City Hall to
each somehow come up with an extra $3.2 billion a year (in 2004-05 dollars) by
In truth, the referees' recommendation in the CFE case is a fiscal fantasy. And like all fantasies, it is based on myth.
The first myth: More money is all that's needed to fix New York City's schools.
The second myth: Billions of dollars in new state aid can somehow be raised without ultimately raising taxes on New York City residents.
The next two months — before the judge issues a ruling based on the referees' report — represent a shrinking window of opportunity for Pataki to hammer out a more fiscally sane settlement."

And provides a good overview...

Court Panel Recommends NYC Receive $14 Billion In School Funding

A court-appointed panel on Tuesday recommended New York City’s public schools receive an additional $14 billion in funding over the next five years in response to a landmark lawsuit. [Ed. note - the full referee panel report is available here as a PDF].

Under the proposal issued by the three special masters, the city’s Department of Education would get an extra $1.4 billion more a year every year for the next four years from the state for school operations. Ultimately, the new school funding would hit $5.6 billion a year starting in the summer of 2008.

In addition, the panel went even further, saying the city should also get an additional $9.2 billion for school construction and repairs.

The report from the special masters will now go to Justice Leland DeGrasse, who will likely issue a final decision in January on how much funding Albany lawmakers will have to allocate for the city.

“Enough is enough. [Governor George] Pataki, [state Senate Majority Leader Joe] Bruno, [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver – get your troops in line, [because] it’s time to do business on behalf of the children of New York City,” said Manhattan City Councilman Robert Jackson.

The court appointed the three-member panel in the summer after the state Legislature and Pataki failed to agree on education funding reform. Last year, the state’s highest court ruled that the state’s funding formula shortchanges the city’s public school students.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit that was filed over a decade ago by a coalition of activists and parents called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Councilman Jackson, then just a parent in Manhattan, first sued in 1991, charging Albany was shortchanging New York City students.

“What it reflects is that when anybody takes a careful look at the magnitude of the needs for additional resources in this city, even the most conservative numbers get surpassed,” said Michael Rebell of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

“It’s time to implement this court's decision,” said Speaker Silver. “Nine years of appeals by the governor have to end.”

Representatives from both the city and state presented their arguments at hearings held by the panel. The city asked the state to provide an additional $5.3 billion in education funding over the next five years, as well as $6.6 billion for school repairs and construction.

The state only wanted to contribute $2 billion more, and also requested control of how the money is spent. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rejected that idea, since the state Legislature gave him control over city schools in 2002.

Bloomberg praised Tuesday's report, saying it affirmed what he has been arguing all along.

However, Pataki says he's not convinced the panel's recommendations are sound. The governor's office released a statement saying: “We are particularly concerned that the recommendations appear to reject any type of real reform and fail to overhaul the current accountability system, while recommending a substantial infusion of new spending."

While the state can appeal the judge's final ruling, the governor on Tuesday repeated his stance that he’d like to negotiate an agreement outside of the courtroom.

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