Sen. Elaine Phillips gave her first presentation since the budget adoption last week at a Meet The Elected Officials Night at the Westbury Memorial Public Library, highlighting how state funds would be directed towards the Seventh Senate District.
Affordability for residents, both now and in the future, was the most important aspect of the budget, Phillips said. School aid is one of the biggest areas where the state puts money, she said, saying that was $25.8 billion of the state’s budget this year, an increase of more than $1 billion.
The Carle Place School District will receive more than $4.8 million in state aid, which includes building aid. The Westbury School District received $53.1 million in state aid, an increase of 15.8 percent from last year, she noted.
“That was a direct correlation of the Senate pushing those schools that had been forgotten when it came to this formula you hear about with foundation aid,” she said. “Westbury was being left behind and we made sure some of that gap was made up…we are attempting to restore the state’s commitment to the foundation aid formula.”
Phillips also emphasized that she was able to secure $1.5 million in funding for after-school programs in the Senate district, including $49,000 for ESPOIR Youth Program in Westbury. She also touched on the new Excelsior Scholarship, which allows families and households making up to $125,000 a year the chance to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges in the state.
“More than ever a college education is vital. Tuition costs have exploded,” Phillips said. “The crushing student debt is making it harder and harder for these young people to be able to achieve the American dream.”
The Excelsior Scholarship also expands opportunities for students who want to go to community college or who do at least six credits, so they can work at the same time.
“This also provides for increased accountability. We are making a contract with these students,” Phillips said. “The state will give you student aid but you have to live by a contract. We will provide this assistance as long as they maintain their grades, finish on time and stay and work in New York state.”
Phillips also emphasized the importance of the environment, saying the new budget allocates $2.5 billion for infrastructure around water, which includes upgrading sewers, septic systems and groundwater protection. The budget also creates a water counsel, which monitors and oversees future testing and improvements to keep water safe.
Nearly $1 million went towards repairing roads in the Town of North Hempstead, Phillips said, adding that $350,000 was allocated to the Village of Westbury. Nassau County received $9.2 million for road repair.
Several members of the audience asked Phillips where she stood on the New York Health Act and Reproductive Health Act. She said she needed to get more familiar with the New York Health Act, which aims to create universal health coverage for New Yorkers. The Republican senator also stated that she was pro-choice and “would do everything I can to make sure Planned Parenthood can continue to be funded.”
Phillips also emphasized several upcoming events her office is holding, saying, “I work for you. I don’t care what political party you are with, our job is to help you and solve whatever problem you have.”
Phillips’ upcoming events include a free legal services program on May 3 at the Westbury Memorial Public Library and a senior scam prevention event on May 11 at the Hillside Library.