Executive budget presentation in Skaneateles highlights education, taxes

RoAnn Destito, New York State commissioner of the Office of General Services, gave a presentation on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposal at Skaneateles Library on Jan. 22.

The presentation highlighted Cuomo’s plan for spending and some of the special initiatives and policies he plans to implement in 2014.

Of interest to Skaneateles-area residents were funding for education, a program to freeze property taxes for residents and funding for access to public lands.

The budget calls for a 3.8 percent increase in school aid across the state, though Skaneateles is set to receive a 3.2 percent decrease, according to governor.ny.gov.

In addition to school aid, DeSito talked about the importance of funding for schools and education programs.

“The best long-term economic development strategy is to have the best education system, and the best education system will lead to good jobs with a good workforce,” she said.

One such program is a proposed $1.5 billion over five years for a state-funded universal pre-K program.

Skaneateles Board of Education member Sue Benjamin asked if the pre-K program would involve already existing non-profit nursery school programs or if it would utilize public school facilities. DeSito said the plan is to expand into school districts, but the governor wants to look into all options.

School board members in attendance also noted that the state is not mandating or providing additional assistance for full-day kindergarten. Skaneateles switched to full-day kindergarten this year in coincidence with the implementation Common Core.

DeSito also said Cuomo plans to create a panel to investigate the statewide implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards. Cuomo supports the Common Core, but wants to have better strategies for implementing it, which has been a tough process for many, she said.

The panel will also review the proposal to eliminate all standardized testing for kindergarten through second grade.

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