State legislators agreed on a state budget last Thursday that fills a $10 billion budget gap while keeping the city’s senior centers open, but also slashed aid to CUNY colleges by $90 million and youth programs by $20 million.
The agreement on the $132.5 billion spending plan marked the first time the state had passed a budget on time since 1983.
“The Legislature not only passed an on-time budget, but a historic and transformational budget for the people of the state of New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “This bipartisan and bicameral cooperation will give New Yorkers the good budget they deserve. It was an invaluable public service for the state government to ‘function’ so well at this difficult time.”
The budget set aside $25 million for the city to use in Title XX money earmarked for senior centers, including 22 in Queens.
Before the state Legislature stepped in, Cuomo proposed that the money not be used for senior centers.
“We are in the midst of tough fiscal times, but we can’t let our treasured older New Yorkers suffer,” said state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck). “We need to provide seniors with the resources they need to continue living happy, healthy lives.”
Sheree Shivers, director of the Rochdale Village Senior Center, said she was “ecstatic but we’re also cautious” over the restorations.
“Once the money is allocated to the city, they distribute the funds and we want to make sure that the money is filtered down to the centers that need it,” Shivers said.
The spending plan also restored $230 million in funding for public schools across the state, including $53 million for city schools.
While the Legislature restored $5.1 million in funds for CUNY colleges, the budget for the city’s university system was still reduced by $90 million.
“These cuts are going to be very dramatic and traumatic,” said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), who sits on the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee.
Stavisky said tuition increases, which seem likely, are unfair and, if they have to be enacted, she said they should be slow and gradual.
“We have to take a look at tuition,” she said. “Nobody wants to raise tuition, but even worse is to raise it so dramatically as we often have.”
Youth programs have also been hit hard in the budget, which adds no new taxes and does not rely on borrowing to be in balance.
The budget means LaGuardia Community College’s summer youth employment program can offer only 400 jobs to teens, according to Adjoa Gzifa, director of the program.
“This program is just tremendously important to our young people,” she said.
TimesLedger Newspapers staff contributed reporting.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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