The good news: Port Chester is getting more state aid. The bad: The district still has a budget gap in the millions.
That's the short version of the budget picture as presented last night by Port Chester's Board of Education. Using new figures based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget, the district estimates a budget gap of $2.773 million, according to Assistant Superintendent Maura McAward.
The governor's budget increased state aid to Port Chester schools by $739,405.
"It's not going to save the day, but at least it went up," McAward told parents and taxpayers Wednesday night.
School leaders and the board are waiting on a few more figures before they can paint a more accurate picture of Port Chester's budget woes. The most significant are teacher pension costs and health insurance costs for district employees, McAward said.
The next major step in the budget process will come on Feb. 9, when the school district presents its preliminary budget to the public and starts the official process of closing the budget gap.
In the meantime, district leaders encourage parents, taxpayers and concerned community members to write letters to state representatives, including Assemblyman George Latimer and state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer.
At an earlier presentation, district leaders warned of potential steep cuts to school programs. Those cuts could include advanced placement courses and some music and athletics programs, Superintendent Edward Kliszus said.
Gradual cuts over the past five years included the school literary magazine and newspaper, a photography dark room, and positions ranging from librarians to a district science coordinator.
"The last thing an educator wants to talk about is cutting programs. This is not something anyone up here wants to be involved in," Kliszus said. "We want to talk about how we can make things better for kids. We'll survive this, and every program that's critical, we'll do our best to keep in place."
Latimer, who visited Port Chester Middle School today, has already received hundreds of letters, board President Blanca Lopez said. Each member of the board called for more letters and e-mails, and said the letter-writing campaign should continue through March.
"Port Chester really needs and deserves more aid than communities that don't have the challenges Port Chester has," said James Dreves, a long-time school board member. "We need that help."
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