Here’s a recap of public policy decisions made in Albany and City hall that will have a direct impact on quality, access and opportunity at CUNY. Sadly, too many elected officials chose to cut investments in our students’ educations to make room for tax breaks for the wealthy. It’s a shameful approach to budgeting—one that PSC will continue to resist aggressively.
As you read this discouraging news, know that when we are united and mobilized, the PSC has a real impact, even in an era of skewed budget priorities. While the recent budget cuts have been nothing short of devastating, the union’s efforts have resulted in crucial, albeit partial, restorations of City and State funds for CUNY community colleges. Together we can build on these accomplishments and begin to restore the damage done to CUNY.
New York State Budget Cuts and Annual Senior College Tuition Hikes
Among many other attacks on ordinary New Yorkers, the enacted budget included $95.1 million in cuts to CUNY senior colleges and $12.3 million in cuts to base aid to CUNY community colleges. The legislature did reduce the proposed cut to CUNY community colleges by $5.2 million in the final budget, but that is far less than is needed after three years and $350 million in state cuts to senior and community colleges.
At the close of the legislative session, the legislature authorized CUNY and SUNY to increase senior college tuition by up to $300 per year for the next five years. The CUNY Trustees have already approved a senior college tuition hike of $230 for 2011-2012.(Community college tuition hikes do not require legislative approval.) Embedded in the tuition hike authorization bill was language that would require the state to maintain funding for CUNY’s operating support, including fringe benefits, at a level that meets or exceeds CUNY’s allocation in the prior state fiscal year unless the governor declares a state of “fiscal emergency.” Tuition “credits” that would offset the annual hikes for some low-income students were also established.
Read more about our State Budget Campaign
Property Tax Caps: Albany’s Destructive Gimmick
The New York Times called Albany’s property tax cap plan a “cheap political tool…that will only further devastate communities.” Despite the Times’ editorial and dire warnings from teachers, parents and school districts across the state, the legislature agreed to institute a tax cap. The legislation, which will take effect Jan. 1, will limit annual property-tax increases to 2% or the inflation rate, whichever is less. Local communities and local voters could override the cap, but only with a super majority vote of 60% on the budget for school boards or relevant legislative bodies. Research shows that arbitrary tax caps erode local control, dismantle strong district programs and penalize the poorest communities.
NYSUT, our statewide affiliate, has a resource center with information about a more equitable and broadly supported approach to property tax relief: an income-based circuit breaker.
Modest Restorations in the New York City Budget
On Wednesday, June 29 the City Council passed a budget that fell short of restoring necessary funding for CUNY community colleges and student aid. Thanks to PSC’s advocacy, the Council added $25.25 million to the Mayor’s proposed allocation for CUNY community college operating support. While this is an increase over the Mayor’s proposed budget, it does little to defray the cost of growing enrollments, new community college expenses and other inflationary costs. Funding for Vallone Scholarships, the City’s merit-based financial aid program, was also eliminated.
Read More About our New York City Budget Campaign