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Port Chester's Youngest Students Will Bear The Brunt Of Budget Cuts, Parents and Teachers Say

Hundreds turned out to a school budget meeting on Thursday night.

Parents and taxpayers vented their frustration Thursday night as the school district looks for ways to close a $2.1 million budget gap.

Without a dramatic increase in state aid or an improbable budget vote permitting the district to exceed the tax levy cap, Port Chester school leaders are looking at a three-pronged approach to seal the gap: Reduce kindergarten to a , eliminate the Early Learning Center at JFK Magnet School, and lay off teachers and staff.

While homeowners are looking for tax relief, parents and teachers took to a podium at Port Chester Middle School's auditorium and said none of the cuts are acceptable. The meeting was moved to the middle school's auditorium to
accommodate the larger crowd; hundreds filled the seats, while others crammed in around the auditorium's twin entrances.

Parents were particulary irked by the potential loss of the Early Learning Center, which was established in 2008 to alleviate overcrowding in Port Chester's elementary schools.

"You're taking away our foundation, which is ELC," said Jessica Rivera, a parent and a counselor at the middle school. "The success of my child ... could not be achieved without the ELC."

Ann Rose Santoro, an elementary school teacher, warned of "a tsunami of negative effects" if the district does away with programs for its youngest students.

Elementary school kids would lose four computer labs and a science lab in the proposed cuts, while teachers and aids would make up the bulk of more than two dozen slashed positions. The early 2012-2013 budget draft is $80,897,493, up more than $1.3 million from .

While teachers without tenure fear for their jobs, the teachers union has taken a hard line on concessions that could save those jobs, according to some school community members on the periphery of ongoing negotiations.

The union could help the district close the $2.1 million budget gap by making two concessions: Settling on one insurance provider for health benefits, instead of the current three, and agreeing to limit teacher salary increases to one percent for the next three years. Several people familiar with the talks say they won't move forward without the help of a mediator.

The potential deal hasn't been publicly discussed, and district leaders didn't mention it Thursday night.

Instead, they hedged their bets on a potential local solution (overriding the tax levy cap) and a state solution. Superintendent Edward Kliszus placed the blame for the school's budget woes , and said the district should pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo into doling out cash from $250 million in unallocated state education funds.

Parents and taxpayers have already sent to state representatives like Assemblyman George Latimer and state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, and Kliszus told the hundreds of people in the middle school auditorium to send more.

"We have a window of opportunity," he said. "Things can still happen until April 1, when the governor's budget is set."

Without intervention from Albany or an unlikely chain of local events, parents and teachers will brace for the proposed cuts. Debbie Carroll, a PTA member, is one of them.

"To think the most drastic cuts will be to JFK, a school that only 16 months ago," Carroll said. "It's just mind-boggling."

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Aidan March 09, 2012 at 05:03 PM
"While teachers without tenure fear for their jobs, the teachers union has taken a hard line on concessions that could save those jobs ..." Perhaps it's time for the BOE to take an equally hard line. The teaching force cannot expect to be exempt from the current national scene. They cannot expect community largesse to continue in an era of extreme economic stress. The BOE has offered a salary adjustment which speaks to the reality of the times. Now it's the union's turn to respond ... and we'll see how much water that teacher-favorite "It's for the children" rant actually holds. Not much, I suspect.
JJ March 09, 2012 at 08:54 PM
No organization should "use" an emotive issue like children as a "tool" to achieve their demands. Teachers, for the most part, are very intelligent individuals and should know that the economy has tanked. "IF" they really want to continue to help these children then they need to address these finance issues with their Union in a cogent manner. Unions are necessary to ensure standards and fairness but over the last few decades they have unfortunately become a political force and voter block. The moment that this occurred was when children took a back seat. Teachers are a most vital part to our Society ; Unions have ruined the profession. I respect & support all Teachers but I believe their Union has become problematic in their demands. Please DO NOT "use" the children as a "tool" and address the issues of finances.
Greg Tart March 09, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Well Aidan, its quite a mess. The deficit in the school budget is caused by compensation plans. Property owners don't want to pay more in taxes because they've had enough. The real problem is the need to educate more children than was planned for- given the rapid increase in the town's population. The later is the fault of the federal government's failure to control illegal immigration. The Fed, rather than grandstanding on issues of fair voting or housing, should be held to make up the difference.
JJ March 09, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Greg , your comment..........."The later is the fault of the federal government's failure to control illegal immigration". Is the exact reason why PC is in this mess. Thank you.
PC Native March 10, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Totally agree with Greg Tart's observation... PC is in this predicament because our schools are overcrowded due to the illegal immigrants' children we are forced to educate. If these children of non-tax contributing households were removed from the equation we wouldn't even be having this discussion because the ratio of taxpayers : American students equates to sufficient school funding per pupil.
Greg Tart March 10, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Yes, JC and PC, its a shame because Port Chester's schools are good; many kids did well on the APs. The problems is that schools are being used in ways beyond educating. Our politicans should insist on getting money from countries such as Mexico to benefit their expatriates, which has thriving middle class despite the drug wars; many american law firms are moving an office down there to take advantage of this right now. Instead of Democrat politicians inviting Calderon to trash America at the capitol, we should insist on some compensation up here. We act as a safety valve on a pressure cooker for many countries who don't want to improve the lives of all their people.
Aidan March 10, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Greg, you are correct about the PC schools. Performance trends are up ... and not just slightly. And this community has been forced to deal with an unfair and uneven burden because of federal inaction. Their inaction has taxed us directly ... and even funneled educational monies into areas we'd prefer not to finance. However, one point of clarification. I am not anti-teacher. This is a rough job ... a position of talent and an inner stamina and patience. It requires a huge investment of one's self and one's soul ... as well as a never-ending supply of creativity. That said, the teaching core is a part of the community. When the community prospers, they should share in that prosperity. When tough times visit, they should be willing to do their fair share as well. Much of the financial burden is also the result of political hijinks in Albany ... by the very people who claim to be looking out for your best interests. It's time to look out for those interests ... and jettison those clowns regardless of the political label. We've all been betrayed. Time to change that.
Cadeyrn March 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Parents fight Port Chester school cuts .... http://www.lohud.com/article/20120312/NEWS02/303120042/Parents-fight-Port-Chester-school-cuts "Alvarez lifted her son, Aidyn Richmond, up to the microphone to deliver one of the night’s biggest applause lines: “I deserve a full day.” Is that a fact? And what makes this child think he DESERVES a full-day school experience on the taxpayer dime? Well, there are lots of other folks who think they DESERVE reasonable taxes and the RIGHT to direct their finances to issues beyond what this child THINKS she DESERVES.
JJ March 12, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Cadeyrn.............once again we see people "USING" children to make emotive points. You're going to see more and more of this as the economy gets tighter & tighter. It's shameful & classless.
VoiceofReason March 13, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Teachers and parents are not "using" children...they are putting a face to this crisis. They are giving a voice to the children of Port Chester that needs to be heard. And yes...all of PC students DESERVE a quality education. This would include proper resources, small class size, and full day Kindergarten. All of which they stand to lose.
JJ March 13, 2012 at 10:39 PM
The "Real Face to the crisis" is that we NO longer have any monies. Do you NOT understand? How much more can we tax an OLDER group of TAX PAYING citizens in this Village? Those are the "facts" Voice of Reason; what do you call having a a 4 or 5 year old recite a line that he / she NEEDS a FULL day of kindergarten? Maybe a sinister parlor trick? That's called exploitation Brother ; you'll see more and more of it as the economy continues to tank. The "face to the crisis" my tail. Port Chester is NOT that easily fooled.
VoiceofReason March 14, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Listen JJ, you are the epitome of whats wrong with this village. You consider investing in the education of our youth as another town liability, I DO NOT. I look at these children as the future of the village and our country. They are worth fighting for. This town has too many people who forgot what it was like to be a family just starting out in Port Chester. I for one am embarrassed for the older faction of this village who fought for these same rights for their kids when they were in school, now turn their back on the youth of today because their children have grown up and moved away. JJ, do you want Port Chester to grow and flourish in the coming years or don't you care anymore? Sad that so many have benefitted from a great community for years, now because it doesn't fit your family's situation and budget, you elect to push these children aside. Well I for one won't stand for it. Port Chester needs a quality school system to attract young working families who are the basis for this village in the years to come. These teachers do a wonderful job teaching our youth, and need our full support. Our children deserve everything good that these teachers and our town offers. They don't need politics and people who no longer care about schooling to get in the way of that. You want lower taxes because you don't need our school system anymore? Downsizing or relocating are always options!
JJ March 14, 2012 at 12:42 AM
VOICE OF REASON (ha)....................Get a life or go back on your Meds; either one will do tonight. You have no idea what I've done for Port Chester so how dare you talk like you know me. I don't need a lecture from someone like you; I've been there and I'm still there. Voice of reason? You bring in a lot of "off topics" into one paragraph so my bet is that you still live at home and never traveled much. Who said anything about Teachers; they're great! We're just out of money Shemp; don't you get it? Spare us the diatribe or better yet show up at the Village Meetings and spout this "high headed" bile. My bet is that you will NEVER show up.
JJ March 14, 2012 at 12:43 AM
GREAT IDEA; MAYBE YOU CAN PAY FOR IT?
VoiceofReason March 14, 2012 at 02:07 AM
JJ, your as silly as your posts are moronic. Yes, I live at home, with my wife and 2 children. You talk about how dare I talk like I know you, but you managed to call me Shemp, call my arguments high headed bile, say I'm on meds, and guess that I still live at home and have not traveled much. Thats doing a lot of name calling and making a lot of assumptions for such a mature person, who has done so much for Port Chester. We are out of money in Port Chester? So you solution is to save money by making cuts that in turn negatively affect our children? Thats just brilliant. How about we look into other avenues to save money not just take the easy way out and penalize the school system. It's not right to the children and not good business because fact is, if Port Chester is to be a viable village to attract young working families, you better believe a quality school system is a major factor. I'm sure you felt like this JJ at one point in your life but sadly you want to change the rules because your situation has changed. You are trying to be the Mr. Fiscally Responsible Conservative here, I.E. Paul Ryan, taking on the we have to cut spending mantra, I say fine but leave the kids out of it!
JJ March 14, 2012 at 02:19 AM
VOICE OF REASON (HA)........GOOD NIGHT.. I really enjoyed talking to you. Now I wonder exactly what you do for a living; can't be Teacher. Like I said in my earlier posts " Techers are a most vital part to our Society". You don't sound like you're too much of anything.
JJ March 14, 2012 at 02:28 AM
IT MUST BE NICE LIVING IN NEVER NEVER LAND.
Blogger March 14, 2012 at 02:57 AM
@JJ - I second Voice of Reason's comments. Enough already.
JJ March 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Blogger..............you're right; enough.
JJ March 14, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Once again we "USE" the image of kids to make a point.
Concerned View March 14, 2012 at 02:01 PM
People who live in valid residential housing only deserve an education system the community of taxpayers can afford. People who do not live in valid residential housing deserve nothing. The taxpayers deserve substantive action to reduce overcrowding and the resulting school population.
JJ March 14, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I agree............ "He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense." —Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, 1900
Aidan March 30, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Greg, don't hold your breath waiting for Fed action. You'll be blue in a snap. The kids are here ... and there's little we can do about that in an immediate way. I'm sure code enforcement will have an impact down the line, but for now, it is what it is. But ... that doesn't preclude certain measures from being implemented. Once again, the salary schedule in place is a hold-over from long ago ... when compensation was a sorry fact. Not any more. These teachers are handsomely paid by any standard. Yet we have a system that's over a half-century old ... and it's NEVER been revised in any significant fashion. Year-over-year increases ... coupled with new contract raises ... will doom this entire system eventually. And that "eventually" is NOT far off. How much more can be extracted from the public until there is a backlash supreme? Soon home-owner will be completely fiscally cornered ... and then that's trouble. The union has been wily. Lowest profile possible ... only commenting when absolutely necessary. Never chimed in with suggestions ... or, God forbid! ... concessions. Nope. Just silence. Mute. Out of sight ... all the while hopin' for the fluff to hit the fan and blow BY THEM. And that's what is happening. Now the taxpayers are the bad guys. Really? After all their generosity over the years? Sorry. I don't think a whole lot of property owners feel like "bad guys" at all. But they are are "mad guys".

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