Last week, New York State announced a projected $6.2 billion budget surplus. The bulk of the surplus will be made up from settlement money as a result of an agreement reached last month between state and federal officials and BNP Paribas, a French bank. As a result of the influx in funding, Dutchess County Legislator and 41st state Senate District candidate Sue Serino (R,C,I-Hyde Park) is calling on state officials to invest some of the funds into local schools and return the remainder of the surplus to taxpayers.
“The budget surplus is a great chance for our state to ease the burden on residents across the state,” said Serino. “What the state needs to do is put these funds into a relief program for local property taxpayers through a rebate program and additional aid for schools. This money would be integral in helping our hard-working families who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of New York’s heavy property tax burden."
"I know most families across the Hudson Valley are dreading getting their property-tax bill in the mail. The fact is that our local schools get $6,235 per pupil from the state, while schools across the rest of the state get an average of $8,301 per pupil. This should concern every taxpayer in the district because our working-class families are making up the difference. The funding gap not only hurts our local children, it also shows why our local property taxes are so high.”
When Democrats gained control of the Senate in 2010, the money earmarked for education was used to make up a budget deficit. The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) was introduced for the 2010-11 fiscal year, and since then has taken $8 billion from New York State’s education system leaving local school districts, which are funded by property taxes, to make up the difference.
Since taking office, Terry Gipson’s budget votes have cost local school district $54.7 million. This year, the GEA will cost local schools:
Arlington Central School District- $4,728,526
Poughkeepsie City School District- $1,344,958
Spackenkill Union Free School District- $1,057,725
Red Hook Central School District- $851,280
Rhinebeck Central School District- $365,823
Wappingers Central School District- $5,597,754
Beacon City School District- $1,961,156
Dover Union Free School District- $733,913
Hyde Park Central School District- $2,313,756
Webutuck Central School District - $481,109
Pine Plains Central School District- $1,067,001
Carmel Central School District- $1,997,240
Haldane Central School District- $348,010
Garrison Union Free School District- $27,805
Putnam Valley Central School District- $553,579
“Terry Gipson was given the opportunity to go to Albany, and fight for our fair share of education funding, which he hasn’t done. Then, when given the chance earlier this year to restore the funding for our local schools, he voted no, failing to stick up for our taxpayers and students yet again,” said Serino.
According to the Mid-Hudson Valley Community Profiles, in 2012, 91 percent of the students in the city of Poughkeepsie were eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Students are eligible for free lunch if their family's income is at or below 130 percent of the national poverty level. Since 2005, the number of students who are eligible for a free or reduced priced lunch has risen 9 percent in Dutchess, and 9 percent in the region as a whole.
Serino, as a small-business owner and mother, has made education a staple of her campaign. Along with fighting to return the state surplus funds to local schools, she also has a petition asking parents, students and taxpayers to tell the state that college financial aid should go to support students from middle-class families, not illegal aliens and violent prisoners. Current Senator Terry Gipson voted is helping to push a plan that would provide tax dollars for illegal aliens and prisoners receive college education at little to no cost of their own.