Earlier this year, the Legislature united in a spirit of bipartisanship to override the governor’s budget vetoes in order to prevent his historic cuts to education and block his proposal to freeze STAR benefits. We fought hard to protect quality education and property tax relief and we’re not about to leave those who count on those benefits in the lurch.
That’s why I was discouraged to read recent reports suggesting that STAR should be sacrificed to pay for the court-ordered changes to the state’s school funding system. This is the wrong choice.
Recently, the state Court of Appeals ordered the state to reform the way we finance schools because New York’s current formula for allocating school aid left certain school districts with inadequate funding to meet their unique needs. This decision should help raise academic performance in schools throughout the state. Especially in schools like ours where for too long we have lived with overcrowded classrooms and too few teachers.
But ensuring that our schools are adequately funded shouldn’t mean robbing seniors and working families of much-needed tax relief. There’s no valid reason why we should have to choose between keeping seniors in their homes and providing our students with access to a fruitful tomorrow.
Providing our children with a top-notch education is the best way to prepare them for the demands of our rapidly-evolving economy. Every student in New York deserves an education that will ensure success in the 21st century job market. But at the same time, our families cannot afford the burden of exorbitant property tax bills.
There is a better choice. Since taking office, I’ve secured $17.9 million more in aid for schools in our community, while at the same time protecting the STAR tax relief program that saves eligible property-taxpayers in Suffolk County $860 a year – helping many afford to keep their homes. These efforts are helping us build a stronger economy and first-rate schools.
It is important to balance our children’s need for a strong education while continuing to fight for lower property taxes in Suffolk County.