The budget accord that lawmakers reached here on Tuesday night will let Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg move forward with what city officials are calling the most ambitious school construction program in the city's history.
But it will not give the city's schools all the money that the courts have said they are owed for day-to-day expenses like hiring more teachers and reducing class sizes the kind of money that will be needed to operate the city's new schools once they are built.
The budget agreement, which Gov. George E. Pataki has yet to accept, would authorize $11.2 billion in borrowing to further Mr. Bloomberg's plans to build or lease 76 new school buildings, upgrade science labs and make other improvements to existing schools, and embark on a stepped-up program of repairs and maintenance for the city's aging public schools.
The magnitude of the school construction aid surprised even some lawmakers and advocates who had been pushing for it. For much of the year, Albany had given little indication that it would take any significant steps toward meeting the terms of a court order that found that New York City's schoolchildren were being deprived of their right to a sound, basic education.
A unique series of events changed that, including election-year politics, a trade-off of school aid for the city for property tax relief for suburban and rural areas, an 11th-hour court decision on school aid, and the development of some tricky financing arrangements to make the borrowing possible.
Fiscal monitors are already warning that the budget deal drawn up by the legislators, all of whom face re-election this November, is an irresponsible attempt to be all things to all voters. The lawmakers offered property tax cuts, sales tax cuts and more school aid. They rejected the governor's attempts to rein in Medicaid spending and his plan to increase the tax on cigarettes. Come January, a new governor will be saddled with paying for it.
For Mr. Bloomberg, though, it was a moment to savor. The mayor made the tactical decision this year to push for the construction money, reasoning that the city was unlikely to get the $4.7 billion to $5.63 billion in extra school operating aid that the courts have said the city is owed. And the mayor argued that without more classroom space, the city could not reduce class size or offer more prekindergarten classes.
To push for the money, the mayor shed some of his usual deferential tone toward Albany. He made a show of canceling school construction projects in key lawmakers' districts, turned up the heat on his fellow Republicans in the State Senate, and even let his aides suggest that he would support a challenger to one of the city's four remaining Republican senators, Serphin R. Maltese of Queens.
On Wednesday, though, the mayor sounded more like his old polite self. Praising Governor Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, he said, "All three of them have done more for this city than the press really gives them credit for."
Senator Maltese said he had not heard from the mayor since the deal. "I haven't heard from him, but it may be that he has a long list of people to thank," he said.
The deal that led to the school aid package had several ingredients. The Republican-controlled Senate, whose base of power lies in the suburbs and upstate, made property tax relief its main priority this year. That gave the Democratic-led Assembly, whose power base is in the city, some bargaining leverage.
On top of that, the Republicans, who lost three seats in the last election, were worried about the pressure that was being put on the city's Republican senators, some of whom could be vulnerable because they represent districts that have more enrolled Democrats than Republicans.
Finally, as the budget deal was being arranged, a midlevel appeals court ruled that while the courts did not have the power to force the state to spend a specific amount of education aid, both operating and capital spending should be vastly increased.
So a deal came together, calling on the state to mail off property tax rebate checks some time before the November elections, and providing for the school aid. (Democrats and Republicans here made a similar deal in 1997, but it later unraveled.)
Of course, there is some convoluted financing involved. First, the state's Dormitory Authority will borrow $2.6 billion, sending $1.8 billion to the city and $800 million to the rest of the state.
Edmund J. McMahon, a fiscal analyst with the Manhattan Institute, a conservative policy organization, noted that while the state Constitution requires all borrowing to be approved by the voters, the state is resorting to so-called backdoor borrowing by having a public authority borrow the money. "In 1997 they put a school bond act before the voters and it failed," he said.
And the more unusual provision is the state's decision to guarantee future school building aid payments to the city to allow another public authority controlled by the city to borrow up to $9.4 billion for capital projects.
Still, there are questions about how fast the city can spend the money on new construction. By starting too many projects at once, officials said, the city could risk driving up its own costs. And education advocates are worried that the immediate promise of money could make the long-term battle for operating aid more difficult.
Geri D. Palast, the executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the group that brought the lawsuit that led to the court order, praised the increase in construction funds but cautioned that "it is still only a half-step toward full compliance."