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Sun., Dec. 21
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Griffo says school funding is headed in the right direction

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MASSENA - Following the adoption of a state budget that increases education funding by more than a billion dollars Sen. Joseph A. Griffo said he feels like education funding is gradually getting better.

“They’re moving in the right direction, because we’re seeing an increase in aid,” he said, referring to the $1.1 million in additional education aid this year’s budget included.

Of that $1.1 billion, Mr. Griffo said $600,000 of that came as a result of the senate’s suggestion to reduce the Gap Elimination Adjustment by that amount. Mr. Griffo, who said he voted against the implementation of the GEA “when the Democrats controlled everything,” said he would like to see the entire GEA eliminated.

Currently the plan is for the GEA to be gone within two years, but Mr. Griffo said if it can be eliminated next year, the sooner the better.

“I think we should accelerate it and end it next year, if we can, but remember it’s $1 billion,” he said, noting that may too much to restore in one year.

Mr. Griffo also said eliminating the GEA isn’t the only step that must be taken.

“I think we need a fair and predictable formula,” he said.

When asked what he thought of the overall budget, Mr. Griffo said there were parts he was pleased with and parts that he wasn’t.

One of the things he questioned in the budget was $340 million in aid designated to Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK).

“If you don’t have a strong K-12 program, I don’t know how you have a UPK,” he said.

The education portion of budget also includes $2 billion for technology, a portion of the budget that Mr. Griffo said details are still being worked out for.

“The most important aspect of that is voters will have a say,” he said, adding that once details are ironed out a proposal will be included on ballots this fall.

The budget also included a reduction in standardized testing, data protections to help protect student’s privacy and a two-year delay of using the Common Core exams for grade promotions.

“This shows we are listening to parents and educators about their concerns with the Common Core,” Mr. Griffo said.

Other aspects of the state’s education budget include an increase of $75 per student in aid to SUNY schools and a $34 million increase in TAP funding.

“Hopefully you’ll see more people able to take advantage of TAP and further their educations,” he said.

Capital expenditures in the budget include $60,000 for SUNY Potsdam to help with increased salaries and $6 million for the school to build a child care center on Main Street in the village.

Outside of education, Mr. Griffo said the budget also included the creation of a new crime - corrupting the government and a clause that would prohibit people convicted of corruption from holding either elected or civil offices.

Senior citizens, he said, will benefit from the increased eligibility requirements for EPIC, the state’s prescription discount program. According to Mr. Griffo, the income guidelines were raised from $35,000 to $75,000 for singles and $50,000 to $100,000 for couples.

In terms of transportation, Mr. Griffo aid CHIPS funding will remain the same as last year, with the exception of a $40 million “pothole pot” of money dedicated to making repairs connected to the harsh winter this year

The budget was also on time for the fourth consecutive year.

“That’s the first time in 40 years that’s been done. We have an obligation and a responsibility to meet the deadline and for four years we’ve done that,” he said “It should continue.”

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