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Education aid and tax relief needed for CNY

— Times are tough, and families are doing everything they can just to make ends meet. The particularly harsh winter didn’t help, driving utility bills through the roof and making the cost-of-living even less affordable. Central New York families have struggled for long enough. That’s why I fought for a state budget that includes funding for vital programs and initiatives to relieve the burden on hardworking families.

We made it a priority to bring tax relief to Central New Yorkers in this year’s budget, by reducing property taxes and encouraging local governments to cut costs. Here is how it works - a property tax credit will be given to homeowners if the local government and school district stay within the 2 percent cap and propose a detailed cost-cutting plan. This will not only help families save money, but will also incentivize efficiency at the local level, saving taxpayers more than $1.5 billion over the next three years. We also eliminated an energy tax to help address high utility bills.

The state budget increases funding to local school by $12 million more than last year. I strongly believe we have a responsibility to provide our children with the resources they need to succeed. This year’s increases were made by restoring funding our schools were promised before the GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) was implemented in 2010. The GEA forced many school districts to eliminate vital educational programs, increase class sizes and increase taxes. While this increase is significant, more needs to be done so that property tax payers are not overburdened. However, we all know the problems in our schools are about more than just money.

We hit the pause button on Common Core, so we could take the proper steps to reforming education. The hasty implementation of this program caused nothing but frustration and anxiety for students, parents, and educators. We need to make sure we are setting our kids up for success, without putting them under undue stress. To start, we banned standardized tests for students in grades K through two, delayed test results from becoming part of a student’s permanent record in grades three through eight and safeguarded the security of sensitive student data. We are taking steps toward finding curriculum and testing methods that work for our students.

Central New York is a great place to live, and this year’s state budget helps ensure a bright future for our community. I’ll continue to do all I can to expand our children’s educational opportunities and make Central New York more affordable for our families. As always, if you have questions or concerns related to this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 452-1115 or by email at StirpeA@assembly.state.ny.us.

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