Advocacy Alert - End of Session Deal Released

June 25, 2015

The 2015 regular session ended in a way that was reminiscent of the session overall- a mix of good and bad outcomes. NYSSBA secured some victories and suffered some defeats.

As is usually the case at the end of session, we measure our successes as much by looking to the policies that could have been enacted and did not, as those which were.

Final bills are scheduled to be voted on tonight. NYSSBA’s Governmental Relations team will provide you with a complete legislative wrap up next week, through a video webinar and a written summary. Register below and NYSSBA staff will send details!

Education Investment Tax Credit

The final deal did NOT include a tax credit or deduction to support private school tuition. NYSSBA opposed the creation of such a program.

However, an appropriation of $250 million was made to reimburse nonpublic schools’ past year obligations for mandated services aid. This is money that was owed under existing formulas and not a new or reoccurring funding stream.  This aid reimburses nonpublic schools for the provision of state services and programs such as the comprehensive attendance program.

For additional information on mandated services aid click below.

APPR and the Common Core

The final deal included some of the changes NYSSBA advocated for relating to the implementation of APPR and the Common Core.  Changes were included that would require NYSED to consider student characteristics such as the number of students with disabilities and English language learners when calculating state growth scores.  

The State Education Department is directed to conduct a review of the state learning standards in partnership with education stakeholders. A review committee will also be appointed to review the state 3-8 assessments to assure that these assessments are grade level appropriate and adequate to measure state learning standards.

Unfortunately, additional changes sought by NYSSBA such as a 1 year delay in the implementation of the new APPR, a delinkage of APPR and state aid and making the use of independent observers optional rather than mandatory were not included.

Modernization of the State Assessment Program

An appropriation of $8.4 million was made to update the production of the state 3-8 assessments. With this infusion of funding, the State Education Department will be required to release the test items for the 3-8 assessments starting with the 2015-16 school year. The Commissioner will only be authorized to withhold items necessary to ensure the validity or reliability of future examinations. As a result, the number of standalone, multiple choice field tests will be dramatically reduced.  

This funding and the requirement to release the test items were a NYSSBA priority this year.

Charter Schools

Despite pressure to dramatically raise the charter cap and provide a significant increase in charter school supplemental tuition, relatively minor changes were made to the charter school act. The statewide cap remains at 460, though the NYC regional cap was expanded to allow for 50 charters to be issued there. No additional financial support was provided to charter schools.

The Board of Regents and the SUNY Board of Trustees will each be eligible to authorize the remaining charters under the cap. Twenty-two of the charters that have been issued and revoked under current law are eligible for re-issuance.

Provisions were included that allow charter schools to increase the number of uncertified teachers they employ and allow for enrollment preferences for the children of charter school and charter management company employees.

Property Tax Cap

Rather than making the cap permanent, the final bill extends the tax cap through 2020 (a full 4 year extension) and retains the connection between rent control and the tax cap.

For the first time since its enactment, state leaders included changes to the tax cap that could make the program work more effectively for school districts.

The department of taxation and finance will be directed develop rules and regulations as necessary to include additional budgeted BOCES capital expenses in the definition of “local capital expenditures” for purposes of determining a school district’s capital exclusion.

Similarly, the department of taxation and finance will be directed to establish rules and regulations on the “development on tax exempt land” in the calculation of the quantity change factor as necessary. This would address some of the issues associated with new development that enters into a PILOT agreement.

NYSSBA called for these changes as a part of our tax cap reform package this year, and are confident that the regulations will achieve our goals.

Property Tax Rebates

The final budget includes a property tax rebate program that will be active in tax years 2016 through 2019.

To be eligible, a taxpayer must be receiving STAR (not just be eligible to receive it) and have an annual gross household income of no more than $275,000.  Tax payers are only eligible for the rebates if their school district is tax cap compliant.

For 2016, the rebate will be $130 for those in the MTA (metropolitan transportation authority) zone and $185 for those outside MTA zone.

For 2017, 2018 and 2019, rebate will be calculated based on STAR savings and income with larger rebate percentages going to lower income taxpayers.

Support for Yonkers City School District

The final bill includes $25 million in support for the Yonkers school district. However, the additional funding for other upstate cites that was touted did not materialize.

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