Advocacy Update: Legislature Returns to Albany
May 29, 2020
Nearly two months after departing the Capitol following completion of the state budget, the Senate and Assembly returned to Albany for three days of marathon committee meetings and legislative session. While legislators mainly focused on legislation concerning health and economic issues, a few bills affecting public education and our school districts were acted upon. Governmental Relations staff worked around the clock on these issues – and we wanted to update you on the results and current status of those efforts.
180 Days of Session
Both houses passed legislation that would prevent financial penalties for school districts that were unable to meet the 180 days of session requirement due to closures associated with response to the COVID-19 pandemic. NYSSBA supported the legislation and sent a letter to the Governor urging his immediate signature.
Letter of Support, S.7996-B (Carlucci)/A.10189-A (Ortiz) - 180 Days of Session
Property Tax Payments
Both houses also passed legislation that would allow school districts and other municipalities to defer the collection of or establish new installment schedules for property tax payments. If a school district approves such action, property tax payments must be made in full no later than 120 days after the original due date. NYSSBA expressed several concerns with the legislation and highlighted the significant financial challenges this could create for districts.
The Governmental Relations team worked closely with legislative staff – in cooperation with colleagues, including NYSCOSS – in attempt to secure amendments that would address our concerns. Despite our efforts and initial optimism, the legislature passed the legislation later Thursday without additional amendments. While we stress that the bill is permissive – school districts have the option of authorizing deferrals or installments, but are not required to do so – we understand the difficult position this will likely put school boards in. We are continuing to discuss our concerns with the Governor’s office before the bill is delivered for his review.
The legislature also passed a bill that would allow school districts to transfer funds from otherwise restricted reserves to pay for operating costs and other costs associated with the state disaster emergency declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While NYSSBA has advocated for school districts to be able to access funds from reserves to help address what we expect to be significant budget challenges in the upcoming school year, this bill would require that funds transferred from reserves under this authority be refunded to the reserve within five years, at a minimum of 20% per year. In addition, the reserves must be refunded plus expected interest. We understand these restrictions would unfortunately make it much more difficult for school districts to consider availing themselves to this option.
None of these bills have been delivered to the Governor, as of this typing. In addition, the legislature has not announced any specific plans to return to Albany this year, but they have the ability to do so at any time. The original legislative session calendar had legislators set to complete their work for 2020 next week.
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