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$25M State Bailout, Other Measures Made To Close Yonkers Schools Budget Gap

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins addresses the crowd at a May rally in support for additional money for Yonkers schools.
State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins addresses the crowd at a May rally in support for additional money for Yonkers schools. Photo Credit: Contributed

YONKERS, N.Y. – The state Legislature has come to the rescue of the troubled Yonkers school district with a $25 million plug for its projected budget gap, according to state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

The additional money will help Yonkers schools avoid layoffs and program cuts, Stewart-Cousin said in a press release.

The senator attributed the success of the bailout move to the advocacy of parents, teachers, city, state and school officials. She also credited the efforts of the Yonkers delegation, which includes herself, as representative of the 35th District, state Sen. George Latimer, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, and Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer.

Also contributing to the infusion of state aid was the passage of two other bills, Stewart-Cousins said in a press release. The first will allow Yonkers to increase its sales tax by 0,5 percent, which would generate an additional $15 million for the school district. The second creates a hotel occupancy tax of 3 percent.

Yonkers currently imposes a sales tax of 8.375 percent, which is shared by the state, Westchester County and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The legislation allows for a tax of 8.875 percent. The Yonkers portion of that tax has been the same rate of 2.5 percent for nearly 30 years, Stewart-Cousin said in a press release.

Yonkers also asked for the authority to collect a 3 percent daily room tax on any hotel or motel room. Revenues from the additional tax will assist the city in providing essential services while maintaining a balanced budget, Stewart-Cousins said in a press release. Similar hotel taxes already exist in the neighboring cities of New Rochelle, White Plains and Rye.

This aid boost follows a $19 million increase in Yonkers school aid, for a total allocation in the state budget of $262 million, according to the senator’s office. The state Assembly added another $20 million in building aid and $2 million in bullet aid.

Despite the increases, the district still is struggling to recover from a $55 million accounting error discovered in 2014, Stewart-Cousins said in a press release. The delegation worked with the governor, the mayor and the City Council to come up with a solution that provided $28 million in 2014. This year, the district projected a $26 million shortfall, she said in a press release.

The legislation now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

“I'm happy Gov. Cuomo and my colleagues in the state Legislature recognized the extraordinary financial circumstances the district faced this year. Going forward, the sales tax increase will provide recurring revenue, which is so important for the school district to have as a reliable funding resource,” Latimer said in a press release. "I would say that the big winners in the 2015 State legislative session were the children of Yonkers and the schools they attend.”

"I'm very pleased the state has stepped up to prevent yet another crisis in the Yonkers schools,” Pretlow said in a press release.

Mayer praised governmental colleagues, the school staff and the community for helping to avert a “short-term crisis” and enable the district to “plan for the future.”

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