Budget benefits SUNY schools

Local campuses of the State University of New York were major beneficiaries of the capital portion o

Local campuses of the State University of New York were major beneficiaries of the capital portion of the state budget that the Legislature passed Wednesday.

The budget included $122.8 million for the University at Albany and $39.3 million for Schenectady County Community College. SUNY-Cobleskill will receive $41.9 million for two campus projects and $7 million for maintenance.

The University at Albany funding includes $54 million for a new business school, $30 million for Campus Center expansion and improvements, $33.8 million for “critical maintenance campuswide,” and $5 million for phase two of “campus revitalization.” Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, said he was pleased with the capital aid the university is getting, even though a proposed football stadium was not funded.

Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, had advocated funding the business school, even though it is not in his district, saying it would benefit the entire region.

SCCC’s funding includes $11.9 million for a public safety/business center, $11.4 million for a parking garage, $4.9 million for “building renovations,” $3.6 million for “infrastructure improvements,” and $2.35 million for a campus-connecting walkway.

According to a statement from Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Hudson Valley Community College will get $27.2 million for renovation of the Brahan Science Center and $7.8 million for a new parking garage.

SCCC President Gabe Basil said he was “flabbergasted” to have so much of the college’s wish list potentially funded, although he noted a local match would be required before the projects can go forward. Those matching funds don’t necessarily have to come from county taxpayers, Basil said, since the college also does private fundraising.

Basil said the college hopes the state will give it the armory building across Washington Avenue, which could become the public safety/business center and fill other functions for the college. A parking garage of several stories would be needed if the college goes ahead with plans to build student housing. The walkway would go across Washington Avenue from the new culinary arts wing, he said.

In other budget news, the Legislature rejected an executive proposal to authorize the partial privatization of the New York State Lottery, which is headquartered in Schenectady. Matthew Anderson, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson’s Budget Division, said “We’re going to evaluate how to proceed.”

Another $4 million is going to the Watervliet Arsenal, as it brings in private tenants with a high-tech focus. Canestrari said the money would help complete the expansion of Vistec Lithography there.

Farley’s office said St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam and Ellis Hospital in Schenectady will each receive $1 million in capital funding for development of primary care centers at the Amsterdam Memorial and St. Clare’s Hospital campuses.

And Montgomery County will get $750,000, Farley’s office said, as part of the Greater Catskills Flood Remediation Program, to buy homes damaged by prior flooding that are likely to be damaged again by future floods.

Also included in the budget is $350,000 for the Schenectady Free Health Clinic, which Farley had pressed for, and without which the clinic might have had to close. But last week Dennis Whalen, Paterson’s top health care adviser, said he has encouraged the clinic to adopt a new funding model rather than continue to rely on direct state subsidy. The state Health Department used to subsidize it under former Gov. George Pataki.

The budget includes money for an information technology project at local health centers, including $300,000 for Hometown Health in Schenectady and $400,000 for the Whitney Young Center in Albany.

But on another issue, the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York said in a statement that the budget includes a 2 percent cut of more than $2 million in New York’s AIDS Institute budget, which means “the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York and Whitney M. Young, Jr. HIV Health Services will see cuts in critical funding. The AIDS Council and Whitney Young denounce the cuts, the first in New York state AIDS services in 25 years of the epidemic.”

The Saratoga Hospital Foundation is getting $500,000.

The final budget trims the executive’s proposed upstate revitalization fund down to $700 million.

The budget also includes passage of Wicks Law reform that was almost done last year but was held up by the Senate. The reform greatly eases mandates to put multiple construction contracts out to bid and is supposed to save costs on public works projects. But critics said the bill would benefit labor unions more than taxpayers.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, said in a statement that the budget “misses the mark” because of “a failure to effectively rein in spending.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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