Letter From BoE: State Has Created Budget Crisis in Port Chester

BoE member Bob Johnson read the letter at a Thursday forum attended by state assembly members Amy Paulin and George Latimer.

Below is a letter to state representatives signed by each member of Port Chester's Board of Education.

Bob Johnson, a Board of Education member, read the letter at New Rochelle City Hall on Thursday afternoon, where assembly members George Latimer and Amy Paulin met with concerned residents, taxpayers and local leaders to talk about the state budget.

For Latimer, it was a day dominated by local feedback on the state budget. Earlier Thursday, he met with students from Port Chester to hear their concerns.

Port Chester faces a budget gap of more than $2.3 million.

February 16, 2012

The Honorable George S. Latimer
New York State Assembly, District 91
933 Mamaroneck Avenue, Suite 102
Mamaroneck, NY 10543

Dear Assemblyman Latimer:

Governor Cuomo’s tax levy cap and inadequate state aid has created a budget crisis in our district. Port Chester relies on state aid to fund about 20% of our school budget. Given the new tax levy cap and current state aid figures, Port Chester is facing a $2.34 million dollar budget deficit for the coming school year.

Port Chester is living out the unintended consequences of the tax levy cap. We will soon see a greater disparity between wealthy and needy districts, with Port Chester being no exception. And Port Chester’s children will suffer disproportionately if the state does not take measures to equalize the school funding equation across the state.

Unlike its affluent neighbors, Port Chester is a high needs district. The majority of our students qualify for the Federal free or reduced lunch program. The majority of our students come from homes where English is not the first language. These considerations present unique challenges for our school system. Simply put, our students are at a disadvantage, and it takes more resources to level the playing field for them. Yet, Port Chester’s tax base is primarily comprised of financially-strapped homeowners who simply cannot absorb a tax increase.

The school district has done its part in paring down expenses. Port Chester already spends the least per pupil than any other district in Westchester County. Without proper state aid and reimbursement, the only recourse is to cut very important basic and valuable programs and staff from our schools. We are looking at a $2.34 million dollar budget deficit for 2012-2013. And thus, without relief, Port Chester’s most disadvantaged students will suffer even more as we are forced to eliminate some of the programs and services they so desperately need.

To close our budget gap for 2012-13, we will need to reduce our full-day kindergarten program to ½ day, close our grades K-2 Early Learning Center school building, reduce 10 teachers that provide RTI (Response to Intervention) and AIS (Academic Intervention) services, and lose in total 25.2 teachers, 1 custodian, 4 computer aides, 4 elementary computer labs, 1 elementary science lab, 7 teacher aides, 1 teacher assistant, and 1 school nurse.

The governor’s current budget proposal has increased state aid to Port Chester by $739,405. While on the surface, any increase is good news, some of the state aid we expect to receive is the same amount we received in 2005-2006 school year, seven years ago. Have costs remained the same during the past seven years? The answer is NO. Our student population, teacher and staff salaries, pension and health care costs, and utility expenses, along with the cost of unfunded mandates, have all gone up significantly. We need our state aid to increase significantly to ensure the equitable distribution of resources that can help us meet the basic costs of operation.

Governor Cuomo has set aside $250 million of what would otherwise be state aid for distribution via competitive grants. We ask: is it right to ask school districts to compete for additional state aid? Should Port Chester pull more money away from educational programs to invest in a special grant writer to lobby for our share of this pie? The answer is NO. We ask you to simply look at our intrinsic demographics. The facts lie in the numbers. We are a low income, highly diverse district. We stand to lose the most valuable programs we have for our most vulnerable children.

Our request is simple:

1) Please give some thought to the unique needs we face in Port Chester. We may co-exist in Westchester County, but our population and needs are very unique from those of our affluent neighbors.

2) Consider that our school data shows that many of Port Chester’s school families are undocumented. Due to cultural differences and fear of government, many residents will not or have not participated in the US Census. Port Chester’s under-reported population should be factored into the state aid formula.

3) Please urge the Governor to rethink his competitive grant proposal. This proposal does not allocate funding where it is needed most. Rather, use demographic data to determine which districts are the neediest. Port Chester is a needy district.

4) Realize that the new tax levy cap has the effect of increasing the disparity between wealthy and poor districts. Port Chester needs additional state aid in order to maintain any sense of equity within a tax levy cap environment.

5) Please urge the Governor to understand Port Chester’s case now. Time is of the essence. Under a 5-year tax levy cap, any cuts we suffer now will only be compounded in future years.

In sum, Port Chester is in desperate need of additional state aid this year. We ask for your understanding of our unique circumstances and support for our district.


The Port Chester-Rye UFSD Board of Education

Blanca Lopez, President
Carolee Brakewood
Jim Dreves
Anne Capeci
Bob Johnson


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George Datino February 20, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Mr. Latimer, thank you. I just feel bad that the community has to beg for money with "tail inbetween legs" from the all mighty bureaucracy in Albany. I went through some of the material available on the PCSD website concerning the 2012-2013 Budget and came across some interesting numbers. I was really trying to understand what was causing the deficit. I wanted to see if the problem was on a loss of revenue or was it expenses. From what I can tell, the deficit is coming from expenses, not revenue. Here is what I found. With the allowable Tax Levy increase, there is a $1.2 Million Dollar increase in the Tax Levy. The is a projected increase in State and Federal aid of over $0.6 million and local resouces of about $0.3 million. There is a reduction in the Fund Balance of about $0.7 million. Adding all that together, there is a projected increase in revenue of about $1.5 million dollars. As for expenses, there is an expected increase in expenses of a little under $4.5 million dollars. The biggest expenses increase, over $4.3 million dollars, are under two line items (Instruction ($2 million increase) and Employee Benefits ($2.3 million increase)). The Teacher Retirment System (TRS) had a 8.62% rate in 2010/2011 school year. It shot up to 11.11% in 2011/2012 and there is another projected increase to 12.5% in 2012/2013. I am not laying this at the feet of our teachers. This problem is the result of a system created in Albany and permanent fixes need to occur there.
George Latimer February 20, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Mr. Datino - Simply put, you're absolutely right. The situation has been created in Albany over 40 years, with Republicans and Democrats agreeing to mandates and decisions that tie the hands in Port Chester and elsewhere. The permanent fixes - the mandate relief referred to - can only be created in Albany. Happy to outline what those fixes are anytime. George Latimer 777-3832
George Datino February 20, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Mr. Latimer - Thank you for your response. Yes, I would indeed be interested in seeing your vision on what needs to take place to fix this very important and complicated issue. I would also imagine that many other people would be interested as well. Have you a prepared document outlining the fixes you are talking of? If so, I am sure many readers of Patch would love to see it or is there a link you can provide that we can follow to see? Thank you for efforts and taking part in this discussion.
Aidan February 23, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Mr. Dreves, the "REAL problem" also lies with our federal government ... for not enforcing immigration laws across the nation. We are not so different from the border states at all. We are all suffering because the federal government will not enforce the laws of this nation. Financial considerations bring such folks to this village in disproportionate numbers. And the financial crush homeowners feel is due to this federal laxity ... AND the reluctance of state leadership to protect us homeowners from this burden. The state and the federal government are complicit in our tax misery.
Aidan February 24, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Mr. Latimer, I also wonder if the idea of a state income tax ... dedicated to education might be adopted to replace the property tax now used to fund schools. It seems to me that if the state is truly interested in equality when it comes to school funding, it should consider a state-wide approach. This would soften the "wealth effect" among districts ... some of whom (like Port Chester!) ... are at great disadvantage to their more wealthy neighbors. A dedicated state income tax levy for education in lieu of property taxes (which unfairly burdens those on fixed income especially) would bring about more equality ... for both taxpayers and students alike. And it might relieve the annual pain and stress for district that rely heavily on "iffy" educational assistance from Albany ... such as Port Chester.


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