Facing criticism from county leaders over her Medicaid plan, Gov. Kathy Hochul is trying to pressure school districts to cut property taxes. 

But schools around New York, despite an influx of aid from the federal and state governments, are facing financial pressures brought on by inflation as well as personnel shortages. 

The debate over taxes comes as Hochul and state lawmakers are negotiating a $227 billion spending plan that is expected to pass by April 1. There are no broad-based increases in the state's personal income tax, though Hochul is seeking to boost revenue for mass transit in New York City area through a payroll tax hike. 

Meanwhile, she's seeking to shift Medicaid money away from county governments, a move that has worried county officials over the last several weeks, warning the potential result could be an increase in county property taxes. 

"Either we're going to have to cut services from other safety net services that are optional or we're going to have to rely more on property taxpayers," said Republican Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne. 

Hochul has defended the proposal, arguing it should be up to school districts, now flush with state and federal aid, to cut their taxes. 

"School districts can meet their needs, but also this is an opportunity for them to cut their school taxes," she said. 

School taxes typically comprise the largest share of a homeowner's property tax bill. Even with a cap on property tax increases, New Yorkers pay some of the highest property taxes in the country. 

"That's an opportunity where I'm trying to deal with the affordability crisis that people in New York are experiencing right now and try to reduce the tax burden overall," she said.

And so the buck is being passed to schools, who are expected to receive a more than $2 billion hike in direct aid as part of the budget on top of a boost in aid received last year.

But New York School Boards Association spokesman Dave Albert warns the budget picture for schools is more complicated. They are not just yet counting on the proposed aid increase before the ink dries on a budget deal. School district budgets go to voters in May. 

"School districts are facing a lot of pressures right now and just as you or I are feeling the pinch of inflation, schools are feeling that as well," Albert said. 

Schools are contending with higher prices and a personnel shortage that's affected everything from teachers to bus drivers. 

"We're seeing increases in the cost of textbooks and supplies, food, fuel and electricity," Albert said. 

Federal pandemic aid to schools is due to expire in 2023 and 2024. The money has been used to fund programs meant to curtail learning loss and boost mental health. 

"I think schools are always mindful of the fact that these programs in place now, if they're going to continue them, they're going to have to do that through their own budgets," Albert said. 

Only a handful of school districts out of more than 800 overrode their tax cap last year. The cap limits annual property tax levy increases at 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. 

Schools are also looking toward the future when aid may not be so reliable, and have called for an assessment of how money from Albany is distributed each year to schools.