BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
The Rockland County Legislature met on Tuesday, July 10 at the Allison-Parrish building in New City, where they discussed issues regarding Rockland Community College’s budget, final plans for Summit Park Nursing Home, and special education for East Ramapo students.
First, the legislature discussed Rockland Community College’s budget for 2012-2013. During the discussion, RCC President Cliff Wood explained a proposed spending plan which would increase the county’s share in the budget by 1.87 percent, increasing it from $16,075,567 to $16,375,567.
The college’s expenses are predicted to jump from $65,158,660 to $66,935,826 for Sept. 1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2013. RCC’s budget includes funds for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
Next, the Legislature came to a 15-1 consensus to give County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef authorization to formulate a plan for final arrangements of Summit Park Nursing Home by Dec. 31.
Legislator John Murphy, R-Orangeburg, listed a few of Rockland’s options for the facility, which included aiding patients who are receiving care in New Jersey and require the use of machines such as ventilators to stay alive. Murphy iterated that the state has shown an interest in the patients, many of whom are New York residents, in order to keep Medicaid dollars close to home.
Finally, there was discussion on a new special education bill. Rockland County Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan explained the bill’s content, which states that when placing a child in a special education class, the school district must take into consideration any differences in educational impact between a school’s environment and the child’s home environment and family background.
For example, if a child has a difference in his or her family background which the child is unable to overcome and consequently can’t attend a public school, public funds may be used to send the child to a private school.
As one of the hot-button topics of the night, Low-Hogan strongly voiced her opinion on the state of New York’s schools. Judging by the applause in response to her comments, it was an issue which the attendees felt strongly about as well.
Low-Hogan explained that the bill addresses a “very serious and important” matter and is an “issue of fairness,” but raised questions regarding publically-funded religious education.
“In my view, if you want to go to a private school, whether you’re wealthy and you want your child to go to a private school or you are Catholic and want your child to go to a Catholic school or you are Jewish and you want your child to go to a Jewish school, that should not be paid for by public funds,” she said.
“The reason we have public schools is so that everybody can get the same quality of care and education,” said Low-Hogan. “It’s very important that Governor Cuomo understands that this is a fairness issue, and that the New York State Association of Superintendants is against this.”
Many critics of the bill have said it will transfer taxpayer to the Hasidic community.
In addition to problems with their special education program, the East Ramapo School District has recently tackled serious financial concerns. Before the meeting, these problems had been highlighted when members of the East Ramapo Marching Band assembled to thank the legislature and present an honorary mug to commemorate the assistance given to by the legislature to the band.
The laying off of band director Michael Smith highlights these budgetary issues. Smith, who led the band through many competitions and national awards, was let go after almost 30 years. He is one of more than 90 teachers who were laid off at the end of the school year.
During his time in Ramapo, Smith expanded the band from fifteen to more than a hundred members. However, he has recently been hired to lead Nyack High School’s marching, concert and jazz bands.