Recap: School Budget Woes in Port Chester

Port Chester schools face a potential budget gap of $4 million and school leaders are asking taxpayers and parents to lobby Albany for relief.

Didn't catch last month's presentation on the school budget? You're not alone.

The community forum was held a week before Christmas, while kids were prepping for winter break and families were making last-minute preparations for the holidays.

School leaders say they couldn't help the timing: With the district facing a budget gap of up to $4 million, there's a limited window of time to lobby Albany for more state aid and a possible tax cap work-around.

"We have until mid-January to influence Albany," reads a dire warning on the district's website.

If you're just beginning to catch up on the budget situation, here are some resources to bring you up to speed:

Resources in Spanish:


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George Colaluca January 05, 2012 at 12:01 PM
By the end of the month I got to come up with $3,600 for have the school taxes are these people NUTS? In Port Chester we got A good School system, next door in Greenwich one of the best system in the country they pay1/3 the taxes we do.
George Datino January 05, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Hi George, I, too, have to come up with a substantial tax payment at the end of the month. It is funny how paying my own taxes directly as opposed to have it embedded in my monthly mortgage payment or in rent really brings home the amount we pay in taxes each year. It is not that they are nuts, it is Greed and Corruption starting at the State level of government all the way down to local government that is the problem. At the local level, you need to be very vigilant to overcrowding and if you see it, report it. I know a lot of people don't like to report on neighbors but unless we lower the student population, we will need to hire more and more teachers, purchase supplies, etc.. The tax payers of this community cannot afford to subsidize the greed and selfishness of people who overcrowd their properties for financial gain.
Conservative NYer January 05, 2012 at 01:07 PM
$5,500 for me and my children don't even attend PC schools!! So a total of $11K just for school taxes. My school taxes are thousands of dollars more than my property... Just seems so askew and upside down to me. I wouldn't mind if it was the other way around at least I have something tangible for the amount I pay... Very frustrating.
Silvio V. Buccieri January 05, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Congratulation, you now see what overcrowding is doing to our schools and we have't to pay for it WHY?? I have no children in school, still I pay school taxes. do like other states do, if want to play in a band, pay for. and any other sports. wake up Pot Chester befor you your out out your home.code inforcemet where are you????
Conservative NYer January 05, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Does anyone know if there is such a thing as a school tax grievance? I was successful with my property tax grievance and getting it down because I was being overtaxed. How in the world can my school taxes be twice as much as my property taxes?? I think it might be time to consult with my tax grievance advisor, perhaps she can give me some counsel. This is just absolutely backwards.
George Datino January 05, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Conservative NYer, Your school taxes are calculated based on the same property assessed value that your other property taxes are based on. If you filed a grievance and were successful in getting you assessed value lowered, then you school taxes are lower in comparison to what they would have been if you had not gone through the grievance process. Each tax (County, Town, Sewer, Village and School) are all calculated separately based on the amount of money they need to collect in taxes (Tax Levy) and then divided by the total assessed values of all the properties in that particular taxing entity to come up with the Tax Rate which is then multiplied against your individual assessed value to come up with what you owe each one in taxes. The school taxes are always higher than the rest of the taxes. I know my school taxes are much higher than 50% of my total property tax bill. I don't believe that is uncommon in our area.
Tom Corbia January 05, 2012 at 01:53 PM
We must fight this dilemma on two fronts. First we must listen to the BOE and flood Albany to relinquish it's prohibitive unfunded mandates. Secondly we have to demand that all 3 bargaining units to come together with the BOE and find ways to save jobs and still cut expenses. Very difficult but it can be done if all concerned give back.
Johnny 19 January 05, 2012 at 02:34 PM
George Colaluca January 05, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Do we really need A superintendent of School for every school district. How about 1 for the entire County or multiple districts? Salary caps or overtime caps for all gov workers?
Conservative NYer January 05, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Thank you for that explanation. I just find each year they go up and up. I truly believe alot has to do with the overcrowding of the property and people are not paying their fair share and it dorectly affects those who do pay.
Conservative NYer January 05, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Hi George: You said, " If you filed a grievance and were successful in getting you assessed value lowered, then you school taxes are lower in comparison to what they would have been if you had not gone through the grievance process." Unfortunately they are not and having your school taxes lowered by $100 to me is not significant at all. But I guess it's all subjective to how you feel about school taxes. My school taxes were lowered by a whopping $171 after our property grievance!! That savings does not even buy me a full two weeks of groceries. Are school taxes always much higher than property? I can see a difference of a grand but not several thousand dollars at a time. That to me is just nuts and completely lopsided.
Aidan January 05, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Somehow, some way school districts across the region have flecked off all possibilities of scrutiny. Each spring, which always brings increased taxes, schools districts trot out the "It's for the children" mantra and smother communities in shame if they refuse the seasonal hold up. Personnel costs represent about 80% of every budget. And the current salary schedule used to compensate employees means that those costs ... even in a zero-inflation environment ... will rise. Teachers and others get automatic raises each autumn just for going back to work. On top of any negotiated raises. Who else gets a raise just for showing up? Public schools are allergic to program surgeries. Old programs, often out-dated and ineffective, go on and on. Eventually, new educational whimsies are introduced and budgets continue to explode. Many are nothing more than fads pushed by swarmy educational "experts" who haven't been in front of class in decades. Even teachers abhor these bores. The most recent "educational" fashion is related to athletic facilities. So many districts demand ... and get! ... Big Ten athletic fields replete with Astro-turf and lights. Everyone must be going pro rank. And what portion of the school district is even serviced by these investments? Shouldn't the future Brett Favres, Michael Jordans, and Wayne Gretzkys pay for their pipe dream out of pocket? Even Little Leaguers pay to play. This type of stuff was NEVER part of the original mission of public education.
Aidan January 05, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Physical education is a laughing waste of time. And a larger waste of money. It never made a fat kid skinny or a slow kid fleet-footed. They turn holding a ball into some scientific nonsense. Why not have EVERY kids join a team ... no exceptions. Run a fabulous intramural program that kids will want to take part in. It's the single, most useless program in schools ... and it is very expensive. Contract salry schedules DO NOT distunguish between a first grade gym teacher and an AP Biology instructor. Same credits, same service means they earn identical salaries. And please don't tell me that a gym teacher has the same import as an English teacher or a mathematics educator ... but they earn the same salary. A helluva gig. Tenure should be a renewable contract ... perhaps five years in length. And merit pay should be carefully encouraged so that it's done correctly. And parents should have a major say in who stays and who goes. Intruth, the best evaluators (for some levels) are kids themselves. They know a good teacher from a fraud. And they're more honest than given credit for. Get rid of junk program and courses. Schools were established for a basic and sound education in preparation for successful participation in the world of work and in the community.
Aidan January 05, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Stick with the basics ... and make them stick. Who needs course like "American Literature through the Eyes of the Blind"... "New York City: A Metropolis"... "Women Sculptors: The Forgotten Chislers"? Do some investigating on your own ... but be prepared to be slathered in teacher-speak that'll make your head spin like a weather vane. Since when did schools become parents? And be required to do their job? Schools now teach OUR kids to put down the bong, keep their pants on, don't light up, and that beer is illegal. Schools also teach them to brush their teeth, participate in games that have no winners (unhealthy, you know!), and to worry themselves sick over the environment and the oncoming polar meltdown. Oh, and don't forget that Columbus is now a criminal and the Pilgrims were the predecessors of greedy Donald Trump. Bash 'em with regularity. Political correctness is more important than 3 + 3 equalling 6. The nonsense is stunning ... and it all costs money. Your money.
Aidan January 05, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Special education is now the largest department in many schools. The largest! Where did all these challenged children come from? Yes, there are youngsters who need extra assistance, but so many special ed kids are there just because they've shown little interest and aptitude for school. They're just like lots of kids. And Mom and Dad are not about to accept the fact that their little one is no Einstein in the making. So, he gets a phantom genetic tattoo as a "challenged" learner. Yeah. Schools are supposed to teach students, not perform miraculous make-overs. Administrators are probably the greatest detriment to education. They are so far removed from the classroom experience, but they insist they're the experts. Toss 'em in front of a class and most of them wouldn't be able to find the light switch. Today's schools need business people to run the show from the financial side. And they need internal, educationally involved teacher-leaders to captain the ship. If you keep the administrative model as it now stands, then require every administrator to teach at least part of the day. It'll save bucks and smother some unpleasant pomposity. And do away with Superintendent's conference days ... they're like a jamboree for the weary, but they are hated by most teachers because they're as effective as snowshoes in Miami. Question the sacrosanct.
Aidan January 05, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Would teachers be willing to increase class size if their pay checks were fatter by a few thousand? Would they teach a longer day for the same enticement? Would they monitor and organize a sport's group for their flabby students for some extra pay? Would they do without spanking new books every half-decade for a larger check? Teachers are not immune to the same incentives that propel other workers. Ask them. You might be surprised. Last, the day of the guaranteed pension is over. I know, it's a state issue, but it's local burden. It was once a necessity to make teaching attractive. But now, most American workers manage their own future fiscal situation. The public would be financially relieved of this incredible expense if the schools simply made some business-world like adjustments. Teachers aren't dumb. They can manage themselves ... millions of American already do. But now those Americans ... like the folks posting here ... are having a very hard time "making do".
Robert Reis January 05, 2012 at 10:38 PM
To all the frustrated tax-payers from above - I can understand your anguish. However, don't direct it at the local level. This is Albany's mess, as well as the federal government's. What Albany and DC have done to education over recent years is akin to extortion. No Child Left Behind, along with other state and federal mandates were welcomed as ways to improve our schools. These initiatives have since gone unsupported, and yet arbitrary test scores are now becoming the new threat by what may result in a tighter spigot. PCSD has its fair share of need - from low income students, to those with disabilities or limited English skills. Our State Constitution has a compulsory education provision. We can't reject the low-performers or the needy the way that some charter schools can -- and yet they're people in big government who wish to get rid of public education altogether. Albany's tax-cap is just a way of shirking its Constitutional responsibilities. When you hear that PCSD stands to receive only a 1.68 % increase in NY State aid while facing a 2% property tax cap, don't blame the school district - blame misguided budget planning by big government. Make no mistake, there is no shortage of wealth in NY or the USA. Monies have simply shifted. The size of the pie remains the same; yet the size of the slices have changed. Here's one non-partisan analysis that shows how restrictive the NY Tax cap will be: http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/FPI_TaxCapComparisonMassNY_20110622.pdf
Aidan January 05, 2012 at 10:46 PM
The demand is that "the pie" get bigger ... and that only happens thru tax increases. Mandate relief has to be a priority. But don't dismiss the role the BOE has in reining in local expenses. They have choices to make ... some not popular perhaps ... but they have choices.
JBT January 05, 2012 at 10:48 PM
We all suffer with higher taxes, the kids suffer with overcrowded classrooms and program cuts. Meanwhile the teachers continue to gets raises and receive benefit packages that the rest of us pay $2000 per month for. The school board will NEVER EVER bump heads with the teachers union because you won't get re-elected if you do. And what do we get for our money???? - Port Chesters standardized test scores are at the very bottom compared to all our Westchester neighbors, only better than large cities like Mt.Vernon and Yonkers. It is not the state and Cuomo that we should be blaming it is the teachers union, they are responsible for this dilemma and they really don't care who it hurts!
Aidan January 05, 2012 at 10:55 PM
They are petrified of the teachers' union. Totally.
George Datino January 06, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Hi Conservative, I didn't say anything about significant. There are a few things you probably need to look at if you are looking at your tax bill. First, when did you go through your grievance process and what year was the assessed value for? When I am looking at the Tax Bill that I just got in the mail for this month, the assessed value is the value July 1, 2010. If your grievance was for a later assessment (which the last notice sent home was), then your grievance didn't get you anything for this school year. In trying to compare what your savings are from your assesment before the grievance to after, take the original assessed value, take that number and multiply it by .14466469 (which is this years tax rate) and then do the same calculation with the adjusted number. That should at least give you a feeling as to what your grievence got you. Since next year's tax rate will be different, then this is not exact. It is frustrating and confusing to people that the current school tax bill is based on past assessed values and not the most recent one sent home. I am sorry if my wording is confusing. I don't explain things well, especially when writting. I know what I am trying to say in my head but it doesn't always come out the way I am thinking.
George Datino January 06, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Mr. Reis, The over population of students and therefore expenses within the PCSD is a direct result of the greed and corruption of landlords and the local politicians and officials that they have in their back pockets. There is plenty that can be directed at local officials.
Silvio V. Buccieri January 06, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Robert Reis, Please stick to the reason why Port Chester has a problem..its over CROWDING''''' and nothing else. we are like a pressure pot waiting to blow!! blame the unions too, ONCE AGAIN, I SAY TO ALL CODE OFFICER WHERE ARE YOU?? ARE YOU BLIND??
JBT January 06, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Mr. Reis Your criticism is misguided The state is attempting to reign in spending and doing its best to not bankrupt the state. The overcrowding issue compounded by the fact that somewhere near 50 million dollars of our school budget goes to teacher salaries and benefits. THATS FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS!!!!! We have approximately 500 teaches in the system. Thats an average of 100K per and it doesnt matter if you teach AP biology, engish as a second language or 1st grade, the pay scale is the same.
Tom Corbia January 06, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I sincerely hope that everyone who has been writing their comments is contacting the state legislature to relax or implement a moratorium on unfunded mandates or you all will be wasting your time. I repeat; all parties who have collective bargaining agreements with the BOE plus the central office personnel have to meet ASAP and come up with a common solution to save jobs and also keep the taxpayer in mind.
Peter Pascale January 08, 2012 at 03:23 AM
I think there are valid points from all the perspectives above. It's not local or state related, it's BOTH. We have a problem of overcrowding fueled by illegal apartments (local issue). There's the union contracts with built in raises. (local issue) There are the state mandated programs which require funding but state aid is frozen AND there is a tax cap. (state created issue) There's the public employees retirement system which continues to be underfunded and unsustainable. (state issue). We have to make our voices heard at both levels. Write letters to the state legislators and go to local board meetings and speak your minds.
Aidan January 09, 2012 at 10:44 PM
You're so right.


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