Schenectady County

Faculty union hits state spending restraint

The president of the faculty union at the State University of New York on Tuesday denounced Gov. Dav
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The president of the faculty union at the State University of New York on Tuesday denounced Gov. David Paterson’s plans to restrain spending.

“This plan will dismantle SUNY,” said Phillip Smith, president of United University Professions, in a news release.

“Without these funds, SUNY will not be able to deliver the educational and health care services that students, parents and hospital patients have already paid for,” Smith said. “Courses will be canceled, class sizes will swell, and the quality of our academic programs and patient care will suffer.”

Under the state budget enacted earlier this month, Paterson is requiring state agencies, including SUNY, to trim 3.35 percent from what Gov. Eliot Spitzer had proposed in his February revised budget proposal.

But UUP says this should not apply to the majority of its funding, which comes from student tuition and other fees. Spokeswoman Denyce Duncan Lacy said UUP is willing to live with the $38.8 million cut in state operating aid but not the additional $109.4 million cut from sources including tuition, dormitory fees and patient insurance payments from SUNY’s public hospitals.

Jeffrey Gordon, spokesman for Paterson’s Budget Division, said, “Given the serious fiscal difficulties facing New York state, every state agency needs to economize. The savings are a very small portion of SUNY’s $4.5 billion budget, and we are working to implement these savings in a way that won’t compromise the important services SUNY provides.”

David Henahan, SUNY’s director of media relations, said, “We are currently in discussion with the Division of the Budget and the governor’s office to try to reach a satisfactory resolution on the current SUNY budget.”

But according to UUP, the tuition and other payments should not be regarded as part of the state budget.

“There’s no good reason to target SUNY this way,” Smith said. “Freezing these funds doesn’t balance the budget. It doesn’t save taxpayers a dime. … SUNY will be forced to deny access to thousands of qualified students unless this money is released.”

Smith said the Paterson policy would produce a shortage of funds to pay for residence hall maintenance, security and campus safety.

Lacy said UUP is planning a rally at the Capitol on Friday to address the issue, and she hopes several hundred members will attend.

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