The Calm Before the Vote

BY MICHAEL CAHILL

No public comments on budget at this week’s NRCSD Meeting

The North Rockland Central School district met on Tuesday evening at North Rockland High School to honor several students who had won essay contests, and hold a public hearing on the 2012 – 2013 budget.

Once again the evening started on a musical note with a performance by the orchestra from Willow Grove Middle School and Haverstraw Middle School.

The board then recognized Brandon Shields of North Rockland High School who won first place in the Black History Month essay contest sponsored by State Senator David Carluicci.

Several students were also honored for their achievements in the Elk’s Club Americanism essay contest. This year’s essay topic was “Why I am Proud to Pledge Allegiance to Our Flag.” Four students from North Rockland were honored

Following the award presentations, the board held a public hearing on the 2012 – 2013 proposed budget. Superintendant of School Ileana Eckert presented a brief recap of the proposed budget, which is estimated at $201,525,130. This budget will come with a 2.69 percent tax levy, which is under the new New York State cap of 3%.

The proposed budget combined with savings of $3.7 million from the on going district transformation project means there will be no need for further cuts if the budget is passed by voters on May 15.

However if the budget is not passed, the district will need an additional $3.4 million in cuts to continue functioning. Those cuts would come mostly from staff reduction, including an additional 17 teachers who would lose their positions.

A failed budget would also mean further cuts to programs, notably a continuation of the freeze on field trips, and the district may have to begin charging the community for use of its facilities. After Eckert’s presentation the board opened up the floor to questions and comments from the audience about the budget. There were none.

During the public input section of the meeting one resident spoke about the hardships that a longtime bus stop in front of her house have been causing her.

The resident, who has been living in North Rockland for 20 years, has experienced littering and excessive noise from children at the bus stop, as well as property destruction and abuse from not just the children, but also their parents. She implored the board to investigate the issue, and see if the bus stop could be moved to a different location.

Another resident, Deirdre Armida president of the North Rockland Special Education Parent Teacher Association, talked briefly about her concern over the cutting of nursing positions, and how children will be effected by these cuts. Armida asked the board if they could restore some of the nursing positions that had been lost in recent years due to budget cuts.

Eckert thanked Armida and reiterated the district’s support and appreciation of the school nurses. However she said there is also the hard financial reality to deal with when it comes to hiring more staff.

The board also recognized the members of the North Rockland PTA who had volunteered their time working in the two schools that will be closing this year as part of the transformation project.

Moving on to old business the board discussed how the Freyfogle Scholarship will be distributed this year. Charles Freyfogle was a former Rockland resident who left a $4 million endowment to the district after his death. The interest from the endowment, in accordance to his wishes, is given out as scholarships of $5,000 to graduating seniors.

With the current interest generated from the fund, 11 graduating seniors will receive the scholarship across three categories. The board also agreed to revisit the scholarship every year and evaluate how it will be distributed.

The board approved unanimously the remaining agenda items, save for board member Mary Ramano who abstained from several personal matters due to a conflict of interest.

Residents will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed budget on May 15. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. at North Garnerville Elementary School, Fieldstone Middle School, and Haverstraw Middle School.