Assemblyman Christopher Friend (R- Big Flats) today reiterated the need for mandate relief for schools and local governments. The issue has recently taken a backseat to property taxes, despite the direct connection between high property taxes and unfunded mandates. The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) this week outlined its seven key components of mandate relief. Among those outlined included, capping health insurance costs, reducing pension costs, eliminating burdensome special education regulations, and giving schools the authority to participate in cooperative purchasing.
Mandate relief and property taxes are linked and we will only curb out-of-control property taxes by first addressing unfunded mandates, said Friend. Local governments and school districts alike face some very serious challenges from the proliferation of unfunded mandates. I am glad NYSSBA has come forward with these recommendations to help continue the push for meaningful mandate relief.
NYSSBAs recommendations focus on school districts and some of their largest cost drivers. One suggestion was to give schools the ability to join purchasing cooperatives allowing them to leverage their purchasing power for lower prices. Another was to streamline the states burdensome special education requirements and bring it more in line with federal standards. Currently, New York special education regulations surpass federal guidelines placing an increased burden on local school districts. Other recommendations focused on contract negotiations, switching the current pension system to a full or hybrid defined contribution pension system, streamlining inefficient teacher disciplinary procedures, and reforming personnel practices to focus more on professional standards rather than tenure.
I am a supporter of many of the initiatives that take the burden off of local school districts, said Friend. I believe giving schools more freedom to seek out the best possible purchasing contracts is a small, but crucial step, in the right direction. Bringing state regulations in line with federal standards and the fiscal realities faced by schools is also a good move as we try to lessen the burden of mandates. Continuing to work to find ways to save school districts and localities money is paramount to reducing property taxes, saving businesses, getting New Yorkers back to work, and fixing the Empire State.