OLEAN – “Government is working in New York State,” according to one top state official.
But he got some pushback Thursday from local officials.
Sam Hoyt, regional president of Empire State Development Corp., delivered the message to city and educational leaders, business people, and interested community members in the Cutco Theater of Jamestown Community College’s Cattaraugus County Campus.
Hoyt’s comments mirrored those of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who visited Western New York on Tuesday and displayed a hockey puck to symbolize Albany’s “hat trick” of passing a budget on time three years in a row.
Hoyt was on a mission to bring home the finer points of the $141 billion budget to the people of Cattaraugus County and the Southern Tier.
He touted the budget’s education provisions as making schools a priority. Along with statewide teacher evaluations tied to state aid, as well as aid for State University of New York and City University of New York programs, Hoyt said the budget restores state aid back to what can be called its high points.
That claim was questioned a bit by Kathy Elser, Olean City School District business officer. Taking a look at the current aid levels, and where they stand in relation to the 2008-2009 funding year, she asked Hoyt if Cuomo has plans of closing the gap in school aid.
“Yes, there is an increase in state aid to the district,” she said, “but we are still not to the levels of the 2008-2009 school year.”
One of the hottest topics to hit the state, according to Hoyt, has been the call for mandate reform. Olean City Mayor Linda Witte continued that call, asking about what has become one of the largest portions of municipal budgets: pension costs.
“Pension costs are hurting the municipalities,” she said. “If we look at the firemen in the city, we have to pay 100 percent of their pension costs. I realize that is a hot-potato issue for many politicians, but is there any relief coming?”
Although not directly saying it, Hoyt hinted that state officials will now be able to spend the remainder of their legislative term dealing with these issues. He said his time in the Assembly was often spent passing budgets and going home, never being able to focus on other issues of importance to the people of New York State.