UPDATE: Voting brisk this evening at Port Chester Middle School. Turnout for tonight's vote is running ahead of voting from last year.
The public decides the fate of the proposed 2012-2013 and who will take two seats on the school board in elections on Tuesday.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Port Chester Middle School gym, located at 113 Bowman Ave., Port Chester. The proposed budget for the school year is $81.3 million, and on the school district’s website, you can calculate your estimated taxes for the proposed budget.
Earlier in the year, the current board voted to stay within the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap opposed to attempt to override it.
“The board felt the community was expecting us to address things within our parameters,” said , current board president, who is seeking re-election. “Our board also felt strongly that it wouldn't be the right thing to ask for an override of the tax cap if we had not used all the resources available to us.”
Lopez is one of three candidates running for the two school board slots along with fellow current board member Jim Dreves and Tom Corbia, a retired teacher who spent 40 years in the district.
Overriding the tax cap would’ve required a vote of 60 percent to pass in the election.
“We felt it was a very unwise move to be arrogant and in effect, say to people we’re going to do what we want,” Dreeves said.
A big issue heading into the election is the negotiations with teachers, who have worked without contracts since their pacts expired last year. In March, with the district and Port Chester Teachers Union still apart on negotiations, the two , thereby stopping negotiations until a state mediator could come in and help with the negotiations. The state Public Employment Relations Board has named Louis Patack to serve as mediator, and the first session is scheduled for May 31.
At a school board meeting in March, Corbia spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting and urged the two sides to have representatives lock themselves in a room and not come out until they have an agreement. He even offered to provide coffee and food until an agreement is reached. He added that it would be in the students best interest for the two sides to do that.
In the proposed budget, 13.5 reading support positions are being cut, which was done after the board initially voted to get rid of full-day kindergarten. After seeing the public outcry in favor of full-day kindergarten, the board voted to keep it, but still had to cut a non-mandated program to get under budget. They landed on the 13.5 reading positions.
Just last week, Port Chester Teachers Association President Linda O’Connor saying they made an offer to the district to all move onto one insurance in hopes of keeping the positions.
“We offered the district to move to one insurance (SWSCHP) and to give back salary money, both totaling $2.2 million over the next two years, in order to save the reading program so important to our children,” the statement said. “Sadly, this was rejected by the district.”
The next day, Superintendent Edward A. Kliszus denying the claims made by O’Connor.
“We deny the allegations made by PCTA president Linda O'Connor but cannot reveal details of the board’s recent contract proposals to the teachers association," Kliszus said. "Our position is to honor the agreement signed in the fall by the PCTA and board to hold all negotiations' matters confidential.”