Port Chester schools are $2 million short, and a worst-case scenario involves closing the district's Early Learning Center while laying off almost 50 teachers, secretaries, aides and assistants.
No one knows how the budget crisis is going to play out, but school leaders have three possible options to come up with enough money:
- Wait for last-minute from New York State
- Push for a from the
- Push for a vote to override the two percent tax levy increase cap
Parents, teachers, school board members and taxpayers have been banking on the first option, conducting an aggressive letter-writing campaign over the past three months, with state representatives locally, and even to Albany. Assemblyman George Latimer, who has been Port Chester's primary advocate in Albany, says the state has $250 million set aside for competitive grants. He's calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to use some of that money to help districts like Port Chester.
Option number three is considered so unpalatable, district leaders aren't even talking about it, and Superintendent Edward Kliszus mentioned it almost as an aside during a budget meeting last week. Realtors say few prospective buyers will consider Port Chester, long-time residents say they can't sell their houses, and homeowners are saddled with disproportionately large school tax bills. The lack of a strong commercial tax base, a population that mostly rents, overcrowding in schools and a sizable percentage of immigrants who do not pay taxes are all factors in the squeeze on homeowners.
The third option was revealed last week, when several people familiar with ongoing negotiations told Patch there could be a local solution to Port Chester's school budget woes. A proposal from the Board of Education could plug the budget gap to use one healthcare provider (instead of three currently offered) and to limit salary increases to one percent for each of the next three years. On Tuesday, the and school directors agreed to a similar proposal.
Although the concession from the 15-member principals union will only make a small dent in the deficit, school board members say they hope the agreement will inspire the teachers union — which has more than 300 members — to agree to a similar deal.