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Schools, state officials clash at District 24 meet

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Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, of the city Department of Education, gave a dire warning, pleading with the approximately 40 attendees of the meeting, held at the School of Heroes, PS 58, 72-24 Grand Ave. in Maspeth, to focus on getting money she said the state owes the city. She was invited by the council to explain the financial outlook facing the district.She and Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights) duelled over the financing of billions of dollars of school construction that was outlined in a five year plan, and the District 24 council members asked the two what the impact would be on their projects. District 24 represents parts of Maspeth, Elmhurst, Corona, Middle Village and Woodside, one of the most overcrowded in the city."Projects labeled as state funded are at risk," Grimm said, referring to projects in the latest update of the city's Five-Year Capital Plan, which budgets school construction projects from 2005 to 2009. She said if not enough funding is allocated by the state, many capital projects in the district would be at risk. Grimm said in a recent letter that the state owes the city more than $9.17 billion over the next five years, following a June 2003 ruling by the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, that the state failed to provide adequate school funding for several large cities, including New York.She urged parents to contact their legislators to demand funding be included in Gov. George Pataki's upcoming budget proposal. Lafayette countered that money was in fact available to the city now, through a new law he pushed through in the state budget passed last March. "The money is in the bank. It is up to the city to move ahead," he said. "There is nothing stopping the city from moving ahead now." He said with the new law, the city is entitled to reimbursements from the state of up to 62 percent of school construction costs, compared with approximately 17 percent before the legislation.Grimm countered: "There is no mechanism for the city to make those claims, no guidelines," she said. "It is just a matter of fact that no appropriation has been made for this law."In the updated plan, called the 2006 Capital Plan Amendment, the responsibility shifts dramatically to the state. For the first time, the Department of Education lists by project whether the state or the city is responsible to fund the project. According to the 2006 amendment, the state is named as the funding source for about half of the 2006 projects, but only 6 percent of the 2007 items.Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) said the city School Construction Authority should continue to design schools even though the money was not currently available to fully fund the construction projects."That should not delay design," he said. "Hopefully the design will continue."Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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