Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has introduced a proposed $1.25 billion budget for 2019-2020, though the city still faces financial challenges.
The proposed spending plan includes a 2.5 percent tax increase for residents that will represent an increase in the average taxpayer’s bill by approximately $350, though there are no cuts in essential services. The budget also calls for new city jobs in the water and housing departments.
The proposal marks a 4.7 percent ($55 million) increase from last year, and must be approved by June 1. Public hearings have been scheduled beginning at the end of the month and are expected to be announced throughout the budget process and will preserve the State Tax Relief Credit for homeowners.
If approved, schools in Yonkers would receive an additional $3.9 million, up to approximately $265 million, though it still faces a budget gap. Last year, Yonkers Schools Superintendent said that to balance the budget, the district may need to lay off more than 250 positions, reduce programs and eliminate the district’s unassigned fund balance.
The influx in funding for the school district comes after Yonkers received a 7 percent increase in state aid to help cut the budget deficit. Additional funding from the state may also be on the way.
Currently, the Foundation Aid Formula appropriates nearly $8,000 per Yonkers pupil. By formula, Yonkers’ students lag its sister cities Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo by between $2,000 and $3,000 per student. Based on Yonkers Public Schools enrollment, the difference in annual funding among Yonkers and its sister cities ranges between $52 million to $79 million.
Last month, Spano said, “Yonkers chronically has been underfunded by Albany for years and there must be a permanent, structural change to the state aid formula in order for Yonkers students to move forward. Together, we must advocate for our students, teachers and administration to ensure they are funded fairly and equitably. Our State Capitol has helped us fill budget gaps in the past, but the days of temporary ‘band-aids’ to fix our city budget must end.”
"Yonkers taxpayers have exhausted their means, hitting our taxing limitations. It is not appropriate for Albany to suggest we tax our residents even more. Nearly seventy cents of every taxpayer’s dollar contributes to Yonkers Schools," Spano added. "We have struggled and made it through each year with the assistance of one-shots, but that has not fixed the systemic problem. It’s time Albany rightfully fund Yonkers Schools so we can educate our students on the level playing ground they deserve.”
“My proposed executive budget literally takes every spare penny we have and sends it to the schools, but there is still a significant gap,” Spano said in a statement. “It is critical that the state finishes the job of funding Yonkers schools fairly.”
Yonkers City Council President Mike Khader noted, "Yonkers schools are systematically deprived of funding by an inequitable state formula that shortchanges our kids. We need Albany to give Yonkers students their fair share.
"Our students and schools are victims of annual budget crises that could be avoided simply by providing Yonkers schools with appropriate state aid. Rising graduation rates and student achievement show that Yonkers students are doing their part; the question is, will Albany?"
Yonkers Schools Superintendent Edwin Quezada said that "The Foundation Aid formula has left Yonkers Public Schools behind for decades."
"Annually relying on generous one-shot appropriations from the Legislature and Governor to manage our budget cannot continue," he said. " Yonkers students have repeatedly proven they are the best return on investment of any urban school district in New York State and beyond. With the relentless commitment of Yonkers educators, our students’ academic achievement continues on an upward trend; the Class of 2018 achieved an 86 percent graduation rate and a significant low 3 percent dropout rate.
"We are asking the State to provide an uninterrupted sustainable solution by increasing Yonkers Foundation Aid ratio. This solution will address the structural funding issues that impede Yonkers ability to sustain the magnificent gains Yonkers children continue to achieve.”
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