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[UPDATED] Agreement near on funding school modernization 

UPDATE (Thursday, May 31): The bill passed the Assembly yesterday and now goes to the governor for his signature.

BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO and CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

Mayor Tom Richards, city schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, and Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski are close to resolving the funding issue that nearly stalled the district’s schools modernization program.

The New York State Senate passed a bill earlier this month establishing that debt payments for the Rochester’s school facilities modernization program won’t add to the amount the City of Rochester must give the school district every year, called the Maintenance of Effort.

The Assembly could pass its bill as early as today, Richards says.

We agreed: the union, the city, and the school district on a bill that was acceptable,” Richards says.

Work on the massive $325 million first phase of the massive project to remake the city’s schools almost stalled last year over a conflict over the MOE law. The school district has no authority to borrow money for the project and depends on the city to borrow on its behalf.

But the New York State Education Department could not assure the city that borrowing on behalf of the district would not increase the $119 million the city provides to the district in annual funding through the MOE.

Competing Senate and Assembly bills never made out of the State Legislature. Neither the city, nor the school district and the New York State United Teachers union were willing agree to the other’s version of the bill out of concerns about the MOE.

The school district and the teachers unions said that the city’s version in the Assembly created a loophole for the city to lower the amount of funding it provides to the district.

What is now being voted on is not the same legislation,” says RTA President Urbanski.

The bill is only applicable to the first phase of the project.

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