Today’s news:

Paterson withholds $60M from schools

Gov. David Paterson announced this week he would delay at least $60 million in school funding to New York City schools in order to keep the state’s finances afloat, and Queens legislators said the move would undoubtedly hurt borough schools.

“It’s very difficult for schools to make adjustments in the middle of the year,” state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said. “They plan for an annual budget. What are they going to do? Fire teachers and consolidate classrooms? Cut programs that kids have relied on and they’re in the middle of completing?”

Paterson said Sunday he would withhold $146 million in school aid to districts throughout the state, including about $60 million to New York City schools to address what the governor called a severe cash shortage. It has not yet been determined by how much funding will be cut to each borough.

“Sometimes, as we have now, you face a situation that’s so bad that all of your choices are difficult,” Paterson said Sunday. “That’s when you have to choose what’s responsible over what’s popular. This is a decision that has to be made. The only other alternative is to shirk responsibility and let the people of New York pay the price the people in government were unwilling to pay.”

In total, Paterson ordered $750 million in reductions to scheduled December payments because he said “the state has run out of money.” According to the state Division of the Budget, the state’s cash position is weaker than at any point in recent history.

After using $1.2 billion in rainy day reserve funds for cash-flow purposes and delaying a scheduled $1 billion pension fund payment, Division of the Budget officials forecast that the state’s general fund would, without taking into account the recent withheld funds, have a negative balance of over $1 billion at the end of December.

The money from the rainy day fund is being used solely for cash-flow purposes, not to close the budget deficit, state Division of the Budget spokesman Matt Anderson said.

“We expect to deposit it back in full at the end of the year,” Anderson said.

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said he believes the money being withheld from schools will eventually be given to the city, though Lancman did say the governor could potentially ask the state Legislature to make the cuts are permanent.

“Everyone is concerned, from the [city] Department of Education to parents to school kids,” Gianaris said. “One of the least appealing things to do is enact mid-year cuts to education .%u2026 The schools have planned for a certain amount of spending, which means programs have been started which won’t be able to finish. It’s the worst way to do things.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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