ALBANY — Voters in 2014 approved a Cuomo-pushed $2 billion bond act designed to help local school districts purchase needed new technology. But to date, not a dime has been spent on the effort.
In fact, only about 50 of the more than 700 school districts in the state have even submitted applications for the money, officials said. New Yrork City is not among them.
“It was clear from the beginning there was no clamor for the money,” said E.J. McMahon, of the Empire Center for New York State Policy. “It was contrived (in 2014) out of the blue by the governor to serve an election-year purpose. It was basically there to create a pretense for a paragraph in the governor’s campaign literature.”
Asked about the delays, Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said the state didn’t receive any requests for the money until late 2015 — a full year after voters approved the borrowing. The state Department of Education is still reviewing the applications it received.
A panel consisting of Cuomo’s budget director, the state education commissioner, and the SUNY chancellor is expected to meet in coming weeks to approve the first round of funding, Azzopardi said.
The city expects to apply in late March after completing “an extensive community engagement process to inform our application,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.
Cuomo proposed the bond act as a way to make it easier for schools to puchase needed computers, white boards and other technology.
Some fiscal experts were critical that the state would borrow $2 billion that would be paid back over years with interest so schools can purchase equipment that would likely either break down or be out dated long before the state pays off the bonds.
The districts themselves were also “lukewarm” to the idea at the time, said Timothy Kremer, executive director of the state School Boards Association.
Many districts felt the bigger need was for more state aid. Some also weren’t happy that the districts would have to front the money themselves before being paid back by the state.
The delay in applications could also be linked to the fact that the state didn’t open the process until last August, which was already into the new school budget year, said Brian Fessler, also of the school boards association.Fessler says more districts are likely to include plans for the bond money as they develop their budgets for the 2016-17 year.
© 2016 New York Daily News
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