The Lowest Operating Budget in Seven Years by Peggy Godfrey (Westcheter Herald, April 9, 2009 issue)
The New Rochelle public school budget was called a “maintenance” budget by John Quinn, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Administration. He said this plan included moving from a half day to a full day kindergarten and characterized the budget impact as “minimal.” The schools’ staff was cut by 7.4 positions and these are to be used for the kindergarten classes. Some new expenses will be covered by a state education grant and through state formulas. Quinn told the New Rochelle Citizens Reform Club and the Confederation of Neighborhood Associations that savings had been achieved in various ways in the budget such as insurance costs and energy conservation. The preliminary budget was based on the Governor’s proposed budget. While 4.9% was projected for a real estate tax increase, Quinn emphasized this was ‘the lowest operating budget in the last seven years.”
Marino Michelotti asked how much was placed in this budget proposal for salaries. The answer was this can not be discussed but the goal of the board was to try to have negotiations completed before the budget vote. George Imburgia asked why they couldn’t say to the unions there will be no salary increases. Quinn added the actual budget increase of 3.75% is less than the contingency budget. The questions arose about how many times the Board of Education had settled the contract before and how many times after the budget vote. The reply was that these union contracts had mostly been settled after the budget vote. Board of Education member, David Lacher, who attended the meeting expressed his concern that residents only really vote on 6 or 7% of the budget.
Rosemary Spalin lamented that education has gone downhill. She later stated that she was happy to hear the schools are going green to save money because Jefferson School is lit up all night long. In her view the real substance of the budget was not covered at the meeting.
Anthony Sutton, a real estate broker, who has been an activist for 20 years on school budgets, said this is not the time to give raises, especially since there are 131 foreclosures in New Rochelle. Betty Ann Lewin said she thought Mr. Quinn was trying to be informative, but considering the size of the budget the cuts are not enough in these troubled financial times. Marino Michelotti said he came to this meeting to hear about the budget, but he felt he had heard nothing about the finances in the budget.
After the presentation three candidates for the upcoming school board election spoke briefly: Jack Wagner, Jeffrey Hastie, and incumbent Deidre Polow.