I set out this afternoon to write an account of the school board meeting last night where the school board once again declared their unanimous support for yet another fraud-filled, fact-challenged school budget.
I wanted to mention that the turnout was extremely disappointing. After several boisterous, passionate budget workshops, only a handful of those demanding the district cut the budget showed up to watch the vote. The school board appeared to be just thrilled to be playing to a largely empty room. The more I looked at the sickeningly, smug and slightly stupefied face of King Dolt Richard Organisciak the more annoyed I became. I was (and am still) annoyed because Richard Organsiciak sat there last night having gratuitously spit in the face of every New Rochelle resident who took the time to attend those budget workshops and had the gall to “thank” residents for coming to those meetings and providing their input.
For those who did not come to the workshops or watch them on TV, speaker after speaker asked Organisciak and the school board to tell them was was going on with the union negotiations – salaries and benefits account for well over 50% of the school district expenditures. And time after time these New Rochelle residents were told by the board, in particular Cindy Babcock-Deutsch and Richard Organisciak that it was against the law for them to say anything about ongoing negotiations. School Finance Chief John Quinn pedantically explained that it would weaken the district’s bargaining position if they were to say anything about the negotiations. Quinn actually said that the district was protecting taxpayers by not revealing anything about the negotiating position of the district.
This was always a lie and now Richard Organisciak, by his own words, has proved it for all the world to see.
After refusing to answer the same question asked by one New Rochelle resident after another, Organisciak last week answered this very question from hack reporter Aman Ali of the Journal News:
“Everything is tied into ongoing negotiations right now,” Organisciak said. “We’re negotiating all our contracts with the board and our teachers as a part of a big package. You can’t make changes to one without making changes to the other, and vice versa.”
The district is working on renewing a contract with its teachers union set to expire in June. Organisciak said the district doesn’t anticipate implementing any salary freezes or layoffs next year.
I am sure that the teachers union negotiators were quite happy to know that the District is unilaterally conceding that no one will be laid off and that our opening position in the negotiations is that all salaries are going to rise. Apparently, the only negotiations going on are over HOW MUCH salaries will rise. Must be nice to live in a world where the laws of economics cease to exist.
I would hope that other New Rochelle residents – even those who support the school budget – would be outraged that Organisciak would pointedly refuse to answer this exact question when asked by residents at forums set up specifically for them to ask questions and get answers about the budget.
That Organisciak was perfectly willing to talk about the union negotiations with a reporter but not New Rochelle residents just shows that all those many statements by Cindy Babcock-Deutsch and Richard Organisciak were just a pack of lies. When the District believes it suits their purpose they will say whatever they want to this dopey reporter, safe knowing that since he did not attend any of the workshops he has no way to understand the significance of what he was being told by Organisciak.
If you are outraged as I am by Organisciak’s behavior towards all those who attended the budget workshops – repeatedly lying to every single one of us – then you may be interested to read about what happened at last night’s school board meeting in Mount Vernon. More on that below but first let me get to what I sat down to write this afternoon…
Claiming to have listened to the concerns of New Rochelle residents, the New Rochelle school board voted unanimously for a massive $229,462,969 which was “revised” from the preliminary budget unveiled last month for a staggering $230,672,969. So, the District would tell us that they are so concerned about the concerns over the cost of the 2009-10 budget that they “reduced” the budget by $1,210,00 or 0.52%.
The Agenda document handed out at the board meeting was entitled “Seeing is Believing” – See For Yourself. Ironic, considering that no copies of the revised budget were made available to the public at the door nor were they distributed to those who attended the meeting. I obtained a copy only because someone else generously gave me their copy.
Of course there are no actual CUTS in the budget just a restoration of some of the State Aid that was removed by Governor Patterson previously and three accounting tricks.
1) New York State added back $2,277,600 in State Aid
2) $500,000 by playing around with something called the “retirement differential” which was not explained.
3) $495,000 by moving around some money from Westchester County for pre-school special education.
4) $215,000 by not paying all that is owed on some Tax Anticipation Notes during the 2009-10 budget
In the preliminary budget, Revenue from Real Property Tax was set at $180,235,376 which has now been reduced to $176,747,776 by subtracting the $2,277,600 in State Aid and $1,210,000 in accounting tricks.
The net effect is a budget slightly smaller than originally proposed with a slightly projected property tax increase.
The budget increase of 3.75% has been reduced to 3.20%.
The projected tax increase of 4.9% has been reduced to 3.22%.
Of course, the PROJECTED tax increase is based on an assumption about what the assessed value of property will be come this fall after the City calculates the new tax rolls. The District originally assumed a decline in assessables of 1.41% which was almost identical to the previous year’s decline in assessables of 1.40%. After repeatedly defending the absurd assumption that the decline in property values and appeals would result in a near-identical decline in assessed value of property, the District has changed their assumption. They are not basing their budget on the assumption that assessables will decline 1.76%.
It is nice to see that the District has acknowledged our repeated efforts to point out that assuming a decline in property values the same as last year when we are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. However, their adjustment is only slightly less absurd and equally indefensible. City Finance Commissioner Howard Ratner told Talk of the Sound that they were assuming a THREE PERCENT decline in assessables. Even that number is conservative. Consider that in White Plains which has already been through their tax appeal process, the number of filings was up 300%. Just about everyone who bought a home in New Rochelle over the past 5 years is going to be lining up with an appeal as property values have plummeted off their highs.
Of course, all of this is money around the edges of what are the real sources of out-of-control spending in New Rochelle – corruption and incompetence. I have been recently pointing out reports that there are hundreds of children in New Rochelle schools that do not belong here. People simply do not want to believe it. I am told that the school board and administration are well aware of this which makes people even more incredulous because people cannot understand WHY any school district would permit hundreds of students from other districts to attend school in their district.
The goings on in Mount Vernon last night, as reported in the Journal News have served to clarify this issue:
With just days left before a budget has to be filed with the state, the Board of Education last night rejected the superintendent’s recommended budget with a 6-2 vote.
Superintendent W.L. “Tony” Sawyer told board members that the district next year stands to lose some 800 students, many of whom were found to have been wrongly enrolled in the district in the first place. As a result, he said, the district doesn’t need as many teachers.
The budget recommended the elimination of about 50 teachers, though some of those positions could be transferred to other departments where the district needs more employees, he said.
Get it? The more students you have the more teachers you need. This whole game is about keeping the teachers union fat and happy by sticking local residents with the bill for teaching other people’s children.
Organisciak alluded to this mentality during the last budget workshop where, in answer to a question from a resident as to why the school district was not proposing cutting staff, he said that the district employed 2,200 people (making it the largest employer in New Rochelle) and that he was mindful of the need to keep all those people employed so as not to further increase unemployment in New Rochelle. Laughable, I know, coming from a guy who lives in Long Island, who has appointed a lawyer from Manhattan to negotiation with a union boss from Yonkers on best to divide up the assets of New Rochelle residents.
As I have talked to people around town about the fact that there are hundreds of students in New Rochelle schools who do not live here they simply did not believe it could be true. I hope it will serve as a wake up call for them to realize that when a school district like Mount Vernon reports that they found 800+ students from other districts in their schools, it is not hard to imagine the same going on in New Rochelle Schools. Our schools may not be Scarsdale but they sure are better than Mount Vernon.
I have been told that a very conservative estimate is that more than 2% of the kids in our schools do not live here. That comes out to be more than $4 million a year – some estimates are far higher. You can rest assured we will have more on this in the coming weeks.