Schools Project $2.8M Budget Deficit Despite Increase In State Aid

District leaders encouraged parents and taxpayers to write more letters to help sway Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state reps.

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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PC Proud January 28, 2012 at 06:41 PM
The decline of American education began in American Universities in the 1940's with the advent of "new" ideas and the discarding of older tried and true methods of educating the young. Due to the amount of time it took for the older generation of teachers and administrators (those educated prior to WWII) to retire, the new educational agenda and its methods did not bear fruit until the mid to late 1960's a point in time long before prop. 13 was passed in California. American education has been a slow motion train wreck that began long ago and the only way to remedy it is to look for long term solutions , not the latest fad. It is also most certainly not the fault of the taxpayer. It is time for American education to return to its roots; teaching reading, writing, arithmetic and assimiliation of our new immigrants from which everything else flows. If our children are not being instructed in these basic principles, all else is useless.
Balar Gazor January 28, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Yeah yeah sure. Let's hear about pay-for-performance and abolition of tenure. I don't know about Finland, but I know about other countries in Europe where you don't get job for life and guaranteed pensions unless the Constitution is changed. Those countries are more successful than the US, safer, and their residents have a more interesting conversation.
Concerned View January 28, 2012 at 10:46 PM
It looks like the BOE is using 20% of their fund balance (cash reserves) to pull this off. That means they can't do this trick for many more years, perhaps 3 at the most. Hopefully they address the lion's share of their budget and negotiate with the union, instead of hoping all their historical aid is restored before they run out of cash reserves. Whether they do that before or after they implement a student registration process like Ossining will be interesting to observe.
Aidan February 05, 2012 at 01:01 PM
The first step should be to revisit the original mission of public education .... and then to acknowledge how far this institution has wandered from that original intent. Schools have become a sort of petri dish for never-ending societal pursuits ... many of which remove funds from the classroom experience. With every new pursuit comes added expenses and a crimping of classroom time. The main mission of public education was to produce graduates who would contribute to the community in the years beyond and to equip them with the needed skills to create a life of merit. That simple and effective mission has been undermined by social engineers who clog the system with political and social issues that were once on the periphery ... and often left to parents and the community at large. We have burdened our schools and our teachers with smothering distractions that have impacted both the cost of education and also the effectiveness of the educational pursuit. Get back on track ... before there is a full-blown revolt by those whose generosity has been abused.
Aidan February 05, 2012 at 01:29 PM
The remarks by E. Nuff Sayd and PC Proud are not at odds. I, too, believe that teachers should be paid handsomely for their efforts. But too often the most effective teachers, because of contract limitations and such, are prevented from impacting the largest number of students possible. A gifted teacher is a resource that should be maximized ... & that support should be in place. Dynamic teachers should be available to as many students as possible ... & their compensation should reflect their talent. But PC Proud makes a very strong appeal as well. We need a vigorous and rigorous return to the fundamentals ... which, in turn, becomes the highway to even greater educational opportunities for those who exhibit such an interest and motivation. If PC schools would make the classroom experience the primary focus (as it should be) ... and be willing to resist the expensive, faddish pursuits that pose as serious educational efforts ... our students would all be better served. And in conjunction with that effort, schools should resist the demand that they become surrogates for every life issue that should be handled by parents and the family. The schools should NOT be expected to be primary force of values and norms. They should instead be a dependable partner in the shaping of our children. Their mission should be tapered and focused. Teach the basics, set standards for proper behavior, and make expectations high. That's what our young minds need more than ever.


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