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Latest Cuts Would Still Hike School Taxes 5.82%

Last week’s plan for half-day kindergarten is out, the high school reading teacher is back, and other tweaks have been made, resulting in cuts of 52 employees and more than $7.6 million.   That summarizes the latest budget recommendations presented on February 9 by Mamaroneck Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried.

Over 500 people attended the budget reduction  session, including a contingent of Hommocks students lobbying for restoration of funds for the school musical.

However, most left before the big question came up for discussion at 11 pm:   Will the community really support a 5.82% tax increase?

That would be the projected impact on taxpayers from the 2.82% budget-to-budget increase that remains – even after all the cuts recommended by Dr. Fried. Lost revenues (including sales taxes and state aid) and lower property valuations are responsible for the three-point gap.

If the community does not approve a budget after two votes, a contingency budget goes into effect that would require an additional $3.4 million in cuts beyond those already proposed.  And even the 0% contingency budget would require a 2.66% tax hike.

Elementary Parents Unite to Challenge Kindergarten Cuts

The biggest change from last week’s proposals was Dr. Fried’s recommendation to abandon moving to half-day kindergarten for most students. Instead, Dr. Fried and the elementary principals recommend cutting two elementary teaching positions, along with two contingency positions.

Additional cuts at the elementary level include:

  • reducing art instruction minutes for kindergarteners and first graders from 45 minutes to 30;
  • eliminating all elementary field trips and the Lincoln Center program;
  • reducing after-school academic support;
  • eliminating a liaison who works with Latino parents at Mamaroneck Avenue School (MAS); and
  • eliminating practice tests in grades 3-5 and the ERB writing diagnostic test for grade 5.

Under this plan, dubbed Option E, the superintendent would need the board’s approval to exceed class size guidelines based on enrollment. As in last week’s plan, this plan also calls for cuts of one instructional coach, five special ed aides, and five special ed teaching assistants at the elementary level.

The total elementary savings? Option E would save $1,051,460  – somewhat less that the $1,352,200 that could be saved by moving to half-day kindergarten.

Rick Marsico, school board vice president,  estimated the district had received hundreds of emails, with “90-95 percent of them” opposing half-day kindergarten. Almost half recommended Mamaroneck drop its current hybrid model in favor of a full-day program for all.

Similarly, no one at the meeting spoke for half-day; several favored full-day for all four schools.  Currently, only Mamaroneck Avenue School (MAS) has the full-day program.

MAS went to a full-day program several years ago because of disparities in test scores between MAS students, many of whom are Latino, and students at the other three elementary schools. At the time, parents at the other schools preferred the hybrid model of three full days and two half days.

Judging from emails and comments at the budget session, parental sentiment may have shifted.

Having only one school with the full program “is inequitable and discriminatory,” asserted district resident Carrie Plan at Tuesday’s session.

Dr. Fried encouraged the board to investigate going to a full-day program district-wide, which could be implemented without increasing costs.

Teachers’ Contract Under Attack

Those who attended the meeting grew raucous at times, applauding comments they endorsed even when requested not to do so by both Dr. Fried and Linnet Tse, the board president.  Support for full-day kindergarten and frustration with the teachers’ union were topics that generated the most clapping.

Several attendees questioned  contractual raises teachers will receive this year, including Jonathan Sacks, who generated applause when he stated teachers “haven’t seen pain and suffering” like others in the community.  He said teachers should be willing to make sacrifices to protect jobs, suggesting “a number of at least a million.”

Jill Lankler criticized various provisions in the teachers’ contract, including one allowing teachers to leave 15 minutes early to attend monthly union meetings.   She argued  the union has “pitted parents against teachers, which isn’t where anyone wants to be.”  Flyers circulating at the meeting expressed anti-union sentiment.

Ms. Tse addressed the fact that the current teachers’ contract, “settled just before the financial collapse,” provides raises and terms that many community members now find unreasonable.  “We’re in a difficult position because of the contracts,” she said, but asserted they were fair and competitive when negotiated.  Lots of progress was made, said Ms. Tse, both in gaining instructional time and in implementing a new evaluation procedure for teachers.

Further, she stressed, “We’re trying to separate our difficulty with the contract from our respect for the teachers.”

Dr. Fried has asked union leadership for concessions, he reiterated, but legally he is precluded from negotiating directly with teachers.  In response to parent questions, he said others may talk to the union leaders, either by calling them or visiting them in their office at the Hommocks.

Several speakers supported the teachers. Rich Ferguson noted “teachers seem to be low hanging fruit” in the budget reduction process.

Absent, though, were comments from the teachers themselves, although many were in the room.  The only teacher to comment was Linda Sherwood (MHS, English), who said she was speaking as a parent in thanking Dr. Fried for restoring the high school reading teacher. She urged the board not to cut electives, which she said were particularly important for filling the schedules of students who do not take advanced classes.

More Athletic Cuts?

Several parents  suggested there was room for further cuts to athletics. Carrie Tucker said she is passionate about sports, but the community is “saturated” with athletics.  Tina Maresca described herself as a “big supporter” of athletics, but wondered if booster clubs couldn’t fill the gap.  In contrast, parent fund raising couldn’t bring back teachers who were cut.

Another option was having more high school athletes use the “athletic option” (credit for team participation) in lieu of taking physical education. This could allow for cuts to the physical education staff.

What Else Can Be Cut?

Several parents asked about cutting more clerical staff rather than teachers, and several board members supported reviewing this option.

Jean Marie Stein put the high school’s college financial aid advisor in the “would-be-nice category,” questioning whether such expenses are sustainable if teachers are being cut.

Gail Julie asked why the Hommocks literacy coach wasn’t cut before the high school English teacher.  Hommocks Principal Seth Weitzman responded that the literacy coach brings “lots of bang for the buck,” working part-time (0.6) as an instructional coach with teachers and the remainder of her time (0.4) as a reading teacher working directly with students.

Others questioned funds for consultants.  Assistant Superintendent Anthony Minotti explained consultants are often the most efficient providers of mandated services for  children with special needs.

Consultants for staff and curriculum development have been cut to a “bare bones amount,” asserted Assistant Superintendent Annie Ward. Funds have gone from $145,000 to $45,000, with the remaining funds going primarily for mandated support for struggling students or for ESL students.

Can Revenues Be Increased?

Queried about increasing revenues, Ms. Tse explained the board is exploring its policies but state law precludes schools from renting district facilities to for-profit organizations for events at which a fee will be charged.  Nor can the district initiate booster clubs to support athletics or extracurriculars, although parents can do so.

How Does Mamaroneck Compare?

Eric Meyers questioned Mamaroneck’s spending, erroneously stating Scarsdale spends much less per pupil.   Dr. Fried said Scarsdale actually spends approximately $3,000 more per pupil. With Mamaroneck’s 5000 pupils, that would be like having an extra $15 million, he said.

Ms. Tse clarified that out of 40 Westchester districts, Mamaroneck is number 26 in spending.  She said further information could be found at and on the district’s Budget Communications page.

What Comes Next?

Although the estimated tax rate was presented early in Dr. Fried’s presentation, it was only when he raised the issue again – literally at the eleventh hour – that there was any discussion.

Board member Robin Nichinsky said she would like to see a tax increase lower than 5%. Mr. Marsico asked whether it was time to think about dipping into district reserves.  “I don’t like this number – 5.82,” he said, “but I’m not comfortable with more cuts.”

The next scheduled meeting to discuss the budget is not until March 16, when Dr. Fried will submit his formal recommended budget to the school board.  It “seems essential,” though, that another meeting be scheduled before then, said Dr. Fried.

Information about future meetings will be posted on the district website.  Additional information about the budget process is posted there as well.   Comments and questions may be directed to the school board at

LMC-TV will be re-airing the meeting on channel 75 (Cablevision) and channel 36 (Verizon) according to the following schedule:

Friday, 2/12, 6pm

Saturday, 2/13, 12am, 6am, 12pm, 6pm

Sunday, 2/14, 12am, 6am, 12pm, 6pm

Monday, 2/15, 12am, 6am, 12pm

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38 comments to Latest Cuts Would Still Hike School Taxes 5.82%

  • Observer

    From this “observer”…I’ll vote down Dr. Fried’s proposed budget. You can’t spend what you don’t have, and I am not willing to increase my taxes. Get real people.

    • waking up - finally

      I’ve spent the last hour reading over the proposed budget . There is so much we need to cut. Beginning with unnecessary sweatsuits for “athletes” that consumes so much of our monies. (Student sports players should pay for their own uniforms and warm-ups, as should their coaches). I’ve spent the last hour reading the budget as offered on the Mamaroneck UFSD website. Surprisingly – for them – it contains much information that really demonstrates how much waste there is in this budget ( and always has been) This time, because none of us has any money, they got caught. Not one of us wants cuts in REAL staff dedicated to TEACHING young people. That said, we can save millions (that’s right , millions) if we cut the small things that are packed discreetly in this huge budget. What most tax payers object to is not teacher salaries, but we do reject the waste of our hard-earned monies on things not related (even remotely) to education. The job of teachers, administrators and the school board members elected by us is to EDUCATE young people – not provide recreation, not provide sports or activities and not to baby sit children. Anyone who has walked through one of these buildings has seen waste everywhere and anywhere. There are too many people doing too little. If all these employees were actually working, we would have more attention given to our young people.

      Moreover, the real waste comes in the form of small value line items. Please take a good look at each regular line item.Maybe it is time for a California-type initiative and referendum for school budgets. Let’s say we don’t want to allocate $85,000 for “paint”(no doubt there are paining contractors stuffed in the budget, too) or $350,000 for “special projects” or $545,000 for “other contractual”.That’s 1 page in this huge budget form. There is so much waste in this budget that focusing on people who work is pointless. It’s the free trips to Lincoln Center and hockey team bus rides to upstate NY, and

      I also recommend that we eliminate some of the redundancy in the upper levels of admin. We can all be certain that the Earth will still spin when we cut the Asst. Principals at MHS by 2. (Leaving still 2.) It was fine a few years ago, it will work again. That’s a few teacher salaries. IF we are honest we know that we do not NEED these principals. The same goes for Hommocks and below. Maybe some administrators will have to do (a little) more work, but we can save a few hundred grand.

      That said, each and every budget item and budget line calls for hard look. It’s not fair or sensible to cut staff (except unnecessary or redundant staff – phys ed. sports, admin.) Nor direct student staff – like aides, special ed teachers, etc. There are hundreds of places to cut or eliminate waste throughout this bloated and wasteful budget. Fried has no allegiance to this place (he is off to make more wherever he can grab it) The board has been asleep or hypnotized for years (while the money was flush). Now it’s time to wake up. Forget about cutting real workers. Think clearly about negotiating with teachers next time. Now it’s time to trim, in truth, slash, that which is unnecessary. It’s easy, read this thing. It’s chock full of waste.

      Let’s play a game.. Who can find the largest waste in the budget?

      Go to

      I found so many. I just found $70,000 for “fire safety” (p.57) Huh?
      What about “Summer supervision” $71,000 (p.51) and “postage” $42,000 (p. 51)

      It’s fun. There are more than 10 items to cut in every category. Look at the legal. Why would that rise by 38% this year? That deserves to get cut out. Each dollar of cuts equals saving for the taxpayer. Each $1,000 in cuts is a good percentage of reduction in tax burden for the residents. Don’t let them scare you and say it will change the level of attention, or quality of education – or worse, G*d forbid it, a drop in property value. This is pure bloat, fat, and waste from years of Sherry King nonsense, and failure to rein in those who think more = better. It’s out of control and now is the time to correct the craziness. We spend so much educating per pupil,but it’s not justifiable.

      WAKE UP. I just did after I read through this craziness……..

      This isn’t even to mention all they waste on capital projects. Unnecessary fields (for kids, ha! There are fewer kids now than 20 years ago and everyone seemed to do just fine then. And, no one [maybe 1 of a 10,000] is going to the majors in any sport. Further, they keep finding reasons to build more and more buildings here. ENOUGH. STOP. Cut it out.

      • Judy Silberstein

        The budget you are analyzing is last year’s – 2009-2010. It is NOT the proposed budget for next year.

        • waking up - finally

          Thank you. I was already aware of that. What it demonstrates is the lack of care taken when no one is watching. We find that in some of the previous year-after-year spending, the outlays have little to do with teaching children. Now that we are waking up, they ought to be (finally) called on the carpet for the waste. The school district here (and the others as well) spend our money like drunken sailors, on leave flush with money in the pocket. Then we wake up with the hangover. In today’s terms the school district is like the country of Greece. Now we get to see where the waste was (is). Keep cutting. Start where you can control. All non-teaching staff should go first starting with the top heavy assistant to assistant to the assistant principal and superintendents. That should save us plenty……

          • concernededucator

            Yes… thank you… YOu are absolutely right all non-teaching staff (instructional coaches, Literacy Design team, clerical staff, etc) should first and they should consider the over abuncance of Administrators in this district! Bravo someone is actually finally getting it! Why should the children/families suffer without the programs or school trips? Thank you again!

          • Proud Teacher

            You need to come out and say this at a meeting. In the 2010-2011 proposed options/initiatives, there are NO administrative cuts. Look for consultants in that budget, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding tons of $$. Keep your calculator by your side.

            • We Want More Info

              Teachers, we need more details. We do not want to see teachers cut- where is the fat? You mention consultants and programs. Give us examples so we can present these specific cuts at the budget meetings. As parents, we assume there are cuts to be made in the consultants and administrative costs, but without being in your position everyday to witness, we don’t know exactly where to start. Help!

              • Proud Teacher

                Scroll up to the link to last year’s budget–it is on the page. There are several consultant lines, and travel & conference, and equipment. The full-time PR job at $125,000 should be first to be questioned, or first to go. Administrative costs are also through the roof.

              • concernededucator

                there are some ideas listed up above, but definitely we have consultants such as the Math night consultant in the elementary schools, also the coaches have absolutely no interaction with children, they cut one from the proposal budget scenarios, but there are 3 coaches left. Also, there is an outside consultant that meets with the special ed co teaching teams twice a month. This is not a district employee so I don’t know if she is listed as a consultant or what but it takes both teachers out of the classroom and requires two subs and this happens twice a month in every classroom where there are co teachers… yet we have an elementary special ed director? and BTW the teachers have complained about this consultant but have no choice about meeting with her. Also, she meets with people who have worked with this model for years.
                Also, there are out of district consultants that are used as mentors for the new teachers – they come and visit all first year teachers during their first year and no one seems to know why since we already have a mentor program with a fellow teacher and btw the teachers get paid a ver small stipend or get a credit instead of payment yet mentors are expected to work with the new teacher weekly.
                The list could go on and on. There is also a Literacy Design Team that is paid to write curriculum. No one seems to know why it takes a whole year to write a one month unit? Anyway, I am sure there is more that could be cut rather than cut programs and teachers that DIRECTLY affect children.

  • Cathy DeVore

    I support our teachers, but not their union, and not at our children’s expense. This is not just this year’s problem. The same guaranteed raises and benefits will be there next year. The system is broken, the math no longer works. We have cut everything that has made our school district great and unique…what is left? More importantly, what will we cut NEXT YEAR??? Until the contracts are renegotiated nothing will change, other than many of us may have to move.-Cathy DeVore

  • let me think

    Have we really looked at everything ? I did not see a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, apart from the kindergarten rethink, promptly opposed by kindergarten parents. We have not looked at : 1. Special Ed recertification (last time, we found out that many Special Ed students were actually ESL students in want of language courses; let’s continue to re-categorize “differently gifted” kids out of the special category into the general category). 2. Why we need 71 clerical to run this district (in addition to the large numbers of administrators). 3. Why we need several 100k+$ principals and assistant for each school, why we cannot pool those functions – it is not like the schools are so distant from each other 4. How we can break the teachers’ contract and start afresh 5. How we can avoid granting quasi-automatic tenure in order to gain more flexibility in hiring and firing 6. Whether all the kids domiciled in this district actually fulfill the residence requirements. 7. Whether managing the buildings differently would save on the 57 janitors, custodians and maintenance staff (going down 1 as proposed I believe) . Keep looking….

    • Anon E Mous

      Yes, let us all think. You are correct, and unfortunately, there may not have been much in-the-box thinking either.

      ‘So just to encourage some real thought, suppose the MUFSD were to disband, contracts becoming just paper. Then a merger is undertaken with a nearby district saving administrative expenses, e.g. one less superintendent, and providing for the best in teaching under terms where leadership runs the schools?’ – Anon E Mous

  • Anon E Mous

    Although insufficiently taught here, the rules of basic arithmetic demonstrate failure. All the proposed taxes are too high and only those residents who have direct benefits exceeding their costs will stay in the school district, and then their taxes will increase even more.

    Observer and Cathy are quite correct. Unless we get real, save the cost of the budget votes, which would be doomed to fail; and if by odd chance otherwise, see the rules of basic arithmetic above.

    As Jean Baptiste Colbert said, ‘The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with the least hissing.

  • larchmontlifer

    “let me think,” I agree, have we looked at everything? Could someone provide me with the bottom line numbers on 2 things?

    First, what would the savings be if the district staff had to pay more than their current single digit contribution for their medical benefits? Why not pay 15% or 25%, or 50% like my spouse?

    Second, what would the total savings be (salary and benefits) to eliminate the district “coaches” that are considered useful by the Superintendent, but not by the teachers that I have spoken to? Clarify if I was misinformed, but including their benefits, aren’t each of these staffers in the $200,000+ category?

  • Anon E Mous


    Q: What words are represented by the initials of the name our school district?

    A: Mamaroneck Union Free School District.

    An irony of a different time, and yes a different meaning, yet perhaps the relevance of irony.

    Good luck to us all as in the words of Hermann Weyl, ‘… it seems an irony of creation that man’s mind knows how to handle things the better the farther removed they are from the center of his existence. Thus we are cleverest where knowledge matters least …’

  • Usually when a budget is first submitted it is done knowing that there is a second plan where additional cuts are able to be made if the community votes against it. So the first budget requests is for a 5.82% tax increase when everyone knows the community is not going to support that type of increase given the economy. Sometimes when an executive of a corporation moves on there is no need to actually fill that position and then the position is not technically eliminated but the costs of wages and benefits are not incurred. Since there is an Assistant Superintendent, maybe the community should let the Assistant run the office, without changing titles, not bringing in a new Superintendent, and thus saving close to $300,000 a year. I am not sure if the school understands that the community loves the school system, loves the teachers, however is trying to limit tax increases so that their homes can retain value in this recession. (Value of real estate is down 15% to 20% in last three years while taxes are increasing.} There are many ways to limit costs, however it is time to ask the teachers to possibly vote on the community’s requests with respect to wage increases. By and large the community would like all to keep their jobs but for wages to be frozen for a three year period until the economy stabilizes. By not receiving a wage increase, the school system can save $4 to 5 million a year. Let us see the teachers first vote on this proposal, and maybe no one has to lose their jobs. The tax increase completely disappears without finding a new Superintendent, and by asking the teachers to come together with the community that they teach in and not pass on the need to fire co-workers by freezing wages for three years. There are very few voices that will support a 5.6% tax increase this year. IF the teachers will not come to the aid of their co workers by accepting basically a community financial request for cost control, then effectively more layoffs will occur. Making us all wonder about the definition of what a community actually means.

  • Jonathan Wheeler

    The issues our school district faces are similar to those occurring in many parts of the country. Unfortunately, things are only going to get worse.

    The biggest culprit in this mess is the teacher’s union. Unions have been responsible for destroying many industries, including the auto and airline industries, and the public educational system will be no different.

    Constraining spending becomes an impossible task when the taxpayers are continually on the hook for the ever expanding costs of health care and retirement benefits for union employees. Teaching is a noble profession. But until we get realistic about reining in the entitlement system, we are doomed for failure.

    Retiring at 55 after 25 years of service, and receiving full benefits for life was a model that worked when people’s lived into their early 60′s. With people now living well into their 70′s and 80′s, the current system is unsustainable.

  • Pro-Reform

    We are facing a short term budget crisis here but the solutions proposed today will greatly impact our future. Deep changes are required not deep cuts. This system is completely unsustainable as we all know. Change can come now or it can come later but it is inevitable. We can only hope this community doesn’t have to truly bottom out before we get reform. Unions do represent the teachers in our community which is theoretically a good cause but they are also national entities that have amassed incredible wealth. Wealth which they use to lobby against initiatives that threaten their power. Unions collect dues from our teachers – dues which teachers are required to pay in good times and bad, whether they want to be a member of the union or not. What about a moratorium on union dues for our teachers during these tough times?

    • PJ

      What about a moratoriam on Unions ? That sounds good what about an abolishment of tenure.Starting from the top and working down will take time,but it will keep quality control in check.The Unions are going to be a thing of the past.Imagine a state,county,town,village,or buisness where actual good quality hard or easy work defines your pay and longevity exists?,especially when the public has a say in it. What a wonderful world.

  • Bemused

    Private schools in the area have responded much more aggressively to find cost cuts and to look forward to the changed economic environment. Not much evidence of that here.
    Sharing services with other districts must be a possibility. Several companies offer services covering janitors, purchasing, catering, etc. Large private schools experience lower costs and better service. It only gets better if you pool more facilities.
    In Florida you pay for school buses.
    The State is an obstacle; it is not possible medium term to pay teachers and staff wages and benefits on a scale so different from the private sector.
    It is amazing that we are being treated to a rushed process of finding savings. Why didn’t this start seriously back last summer when the problem must have been obvious.
    The process is still not serious. How can they be talking about any service increases? So what if they got e-mails asking for them; how many e-mails, how many taxpayers? If you face a crisis you just say no.

  • getting unafforable

    If taxes keep going up the way they have been going up, homeowners who no longer have children in school will have no choice but to move away. Yes, the quality of our schools is a major driver of real estate values — but there are many places within a 20 mile radius of town that do not place such a heavy burden on homeowners.

    • Anon E Mous

      Yes, ‘getting unaffordable’, very correct. And more, taxes are also drivers of real estate values. R.E. taxes are direct factors in monthly carrying costs – hint, think about mortgages. And more, school district taxes are the largest and fastest growing part of R.E. taxes in our community.

      It is so simple a child can understand it.

      In the word of Anon E Mous, ‘Although insufficiently taught here, the rules of basic arithmetic demonstrate failure. All the proposed taxes are too high and only those residents who have direct benefits exceeding their costs will stay in the school district, and then their taxes will increase even more.’

  • Anon E Mous

    It takes a village. It takes a leader.

    The Union: David Katz, president of the Bronxville Teachers Association, objected to many of the suggested cuts to programs and staffing. He said the district could use its fund balance or expected surplus to maintain its current programs, or just let the budget stand with its low tax increase. ‘We don’t want to work in a run-of-the-mill school,’ Katz said. ‘This is one of the finest districts in the country. We can keep it that way — you can keep it that way — by continuing to invest in the school.’ (LoHud, Feb 13, 2010)

    The Leader in the Village of Bronxville: Mayor Mary Marvin, a special guest at the meeting, made a plea on behalf of residents who have told her they cannot afford to live in Bronxville any more because of the tax burden. (LoHud, Feb 13, 2010)

    And so, in the words of Anon E Mous, ‘It’s so simple, a child can understand it.’

  • Proud Teacher

    Why is no one questioning the full-time PR person for the district whose salary is in the $125,000 range. Her workload was just increased this year by 25%, she used to be 4 days per week @ $100,000 (which was still a racket). If times were tough why was she increased not decreased? The only reason I have heard is related to passing the bond (which passed) and for communications. This at the expense of class size and teaching positions?

  • jmb27

    Predatory Lending is a major contributor to the economic turmoil we are currently experiencing.

    Here is an example of what I am talking about:
    Scott Veerkamp / Predatory Lending (Franklin Township School Board Member.)

    Please review this information from U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley regarding deceptive lending practices:
    “Steering payments were made to brokers who enticed unsuspecting homeowners into deceptive and expensive mortgages. These secret bonus payments, often called Yield Spread Premiums, turned home mortgages into a SCAM.”

    The Center for Responsible Lending says YSP “steals equity from struggling families.”
    1. Scott collected nearly $10,000 on two separate mortgages using YSP and junk fees. 2. This is an average of $5,000 per loan. 3. The median value of the properties was $135,000. 4. Clearly, this type of lending represents a major ripoff for consumers.

    • Wise Old Owl

      Great info – thanks for sharing it!

      Just proves the point I’ve always believed: Predatory lending caused the Mortgage meltdowns – not the home owners trying to refinance – as much of the detailed information was lost on them while they were being preyed upon by the mortgage lenders.

      Some say the people who took out the loans are equally to blame – I say not a chance. It is and always was the banks duty and moral and professional obligation to educate and even deny loans to people they knew would have serious difficulties paying them back after the loans reset in a few years. 40 or so years ago – these loans would never have been permitted. Not even in the early 90′s for that matter. Not until equity in homes became equivalent to the “funny money” of stock options for that matter. One day they are doubling an tripling in value (think: dot coms in the late ’90′s) and the next day, they are worthless and delisted from NASDAQ.

      Look at the what has transpired by the equity in homes. Where did it go? It was all just an illusion – yet just like Wall Street made humongous profits off the dot com smoke and mirror valuations so too did the Banks make a killing off of predatory lending to homeowners who could never afford their loans in the first place – not for any sustainable period of time.

      Greed got us into the exconomic mess, it will take patience, discipline and time to get us out of it. Won’t happen for a long time. Anyone that thinks it’s going to turn around soon has not yet learned from the last decades mistakes.

  • Watching the meetings on cable and they are still not being able to ask for less then a 5.82% increase is amazing. After the vote comes in, then the real plan will be shown, for everyone knows this one is not going to be passed. Maybe they want to hire a consultant to help them with budget cuts.

  • Concerned Community Member

    As a community, we have been asleep at the switch. The bloat in our school budget started years ago. 6-10% tax increases were accepted every single year — the District told the PTA mommies that they were necessary and off they trotted to mobilize the community with fears of educational-armageddon if the budget wasn’t supported. Now, we as a community need to get real and get tough. We need to force a peel-back of those layers of fat.
    The BOE is supposed to be our voice. They need to start with staffing the classrooms properly and then assume everything else can go. Put back what is absolutely necessary. Push away the entrenched interests. Tenure stinks. It is impossible to fire the underperformers and impossible to reward the high flyers. But layering on consultants and coaches and out-of-district paid mentors is not the answer (perhaps they should let the mommies loose on the underperformers — that’s free). Figure it out. Just because it has always been this way does not mean it is right. The Board needs to be a stronger force and a driver of change. They need to do the dirty work. Look hard. Be creative. Be strong. Presumably, that is why they took this volunteer, thankless job.

    Suzi Oppenheimer is trying to pass legislation that would allow a contingency budget to include pension and benefit cost increases above the budgeted amount. She needs to be stopped. A “no” vote and threat of massive layoffs are the only leverage the tax payers have with the dysfunctional unions. There is no other way for us to force the unions back to the table. Oppenheimer’s legislation will eliminate the minimal leverage the tax payers have. The unions know a “no” vote is coming and they will be forced to give back or fire their own. Suzy is in bed with them — her election campaigns must be funded by contributions from the unions.
    Do people realize that the schools are staffed by clerical and custodial unions? Do they realize that the clerical workers have tenure too? The good ones go first. The useless, punch-the-clock workers remain. The entire district should be staffed with clerical “consultants” who receive market-based benefit plans and 401k’s…not free health care and pensions. Same with the custodial teams.
    We need our passive community to remain committed to forcing a better solution. We are fickle– if kindergarten is restored then many will turn their attention elsewhere. Good things can come out of this mess. A general rethinking of how we manage and fund our district with a focus on basics. But we ALL need to keep informed and keep the pressure on. No one will do it for us.

  • Taxpayor

    To Concerned Community Member. You are very right. I remember the day of being a voice in the desert challenging Dr Grucci’s optimistic bond number throwing (at the time $53 M for essential repairs), trying to get the Pdt of the BoE to bring back a budget study session meeting on the right track against filibustering by the supporters of the ski team, reminding the same BoE and community that a Citizens Financial Advice Committee had been set up for a purpose (it became dormant from day one, then was disbanded and replaced, I believe, by a similarly ineffective body), wondering where the Long Range Plan from our fresh new Superintendent had gone, why we were hiring TAs to increase security and safety against remote risks without a proper risk assessment and suggesting to hire a manager and a leader as opposed to a father figure for superintendent. All in vain against the alliance of PTA moms and unions, combined with a weak Board deferring to the Super for any direction, when , as we now belatedly realize, the Super is conflicted since his career path depends less of financial savvy and more on excellence for all at all costs. Let’s see what happens now. By the way, the Pew center just estimated the unfunded pension and healthcare gap at 1 trillion dollars, based on pre-2008 crash figures. I am not sure that getting rid of a few consultants and coaches will do the trick.

    • Anon E Mous

      Yes. We spent money, borrowed money and created problems, leaving the solution to the next administration. Listening to oneself, perhaps we were just following the national example and if so perhaps we’ll be lucky to avoid expecting a single person to solve it.

      Had we created excellence in those last five, ten or more years, perhaps at least we’d have an excuse. But the school district probably achieved only what the high socioeconomic level of its overall population would have achieved with a much less expensive school district.

      Leadership unfortunately did not provide excellence, it served itself by providing conflict avoidance, handing out future assets to all who asked. And then moved on.

      We all now have the challenge of saying no and enforcing high standards. And to each person or group who says cut something else – the answer is we must cut almost everything, especially taxes, while improving quality. That is our chance of success, in property values, in education, in our community.

      In the words of Tuli Kupferberg, ‘When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge’.

  • Dollar bills

    James Baker was interviewed on CNN yesterday and stated that it’s not enough to just raise taxes – that this is not the answer and it won’t be the way we get out of this financial mess as a country. It’s all about spending and debt accumulation. He said “we are spending as recklessly as drunken sailors” (apologies to any old salty’s out there who may take offense at his analogy – so please don’t shoot the messenger!).

    Baker is right – our generations (Baby Boomer and Gen X’ers) don’t know how to curb spending nor save money. It’s all about the here and the now, getting caught up in the narcissism of the “ME” generations. The long term solution to the current national economic crisis will include increased taxes because there’s no way around it – we have to raise money. Saving has got to become an American past time once again but as Baker said “sacrifices have to be made. We need to pay for our past mistakes” and that means higher taxes and spending cuts. Time to rein in the expenses.

  • Pro-Reform

    We are in this mess because we have antiquated laws, we have governments that are pro-union and the bureaucracy to get anything done lags years behind the problems. Nothing is ever done in real time and we are forced to play catch-up. Unions are completely opposed to change because they have it made.

    We need legislation that keeps up with the times, we need unions to be reined in and we need our systems to be completely overhauled and streamlined. The issues are simple – getting anything meaningful done with all this red tape, however, continues to be the challenge.

  • The Gazette Rocks

    The Gazette Rocks

    I have never heard such intelligent and informed comments re the bloated administration, clerical and custodial staff and the highly paid and and ineffectual curriculum design team, (wondering how much does Annie Ward earn, including benefits) and outside consultants. How can we reasonably expect the teaching staff, particularly the high school English and middle school English teachers to implement these plans when they are carrying such an enormous load. The concern about those children who attend our schools who don’t meet residency requirements is also a very real one. Many of these students are the ones who require the most educational support.

    With these cuts in place, in a addition to the other pockets of waste already mentioned, not only would all the teaching staff be restored, but I’m guessing the tax increase would be minimal.

    Not only do we need to find a way to organize in order for our views to be more widely voiced so that there is real pressure on the School Board, but crucially, the search for the new Superintendent should be more transparent — 13 years of poor leadership. Moreover, it is essential for the composition of the new School Board to be closely watched.


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  • Please attend budget meeting

    “March 2 Board of Education meeting Includes Further Budget Reduction Work (Mamaroneck High School, Tiered Classroom) 7 p.m. – Energy Performance Contracts presentation, followed by budget work. The Budget portion of the meeting will begin around 7:45 pm. At the conclusion of the last Budget Reduction Initiatives meeting, it became clear that further budget reductions were necessary. Dr. Fried, Central Staff and Administrators will present expenditure-reducing ideas for the Board’s consideration. Public comment is always valued and welcome. This is the final community meeting prior to the March 16th Superintendent’s Recommended Budget being presented to the Board and community. We hope you will join us. “

  • Anon E Mous

    1. Cut the meetings.

    2. Cut the budget.

    3. Cut the taxes.

    - 30 -

    Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything. – John Kenneth Galbraith

  • Frug Al

    Dr.Fried, staff and teachers should follow the example of George Latimer who voluntarily gave himself a pay cut and cut down on his staff.

    • Anon E Mous

      Assemblyperson Latimer has consistently demonstrated concern for the needs of the people, has represented his constituents with fervor, has been available to his communities and their residents, and actively sought out at multitudes of events their ideas and opinions.

      It would be welcoming to hear others be identified as such, but at least we’re lucky that our Assemblyperson Latimer has been a rare exception to the words attributed to Frank Hubbard, ‘We’d all like to vote for the best man, but he’s never a candidate.’

  • NYS school budgets

    I clipped this from another news source. With a negative CPI, our contingency budget (which we have no control over) could be -.48, not 0.0%. the state has not yet altered the law. We need to put forth a passable budget to avoid this …

    The CPI for 2009 is -0.4% [source], which means there was no inflation in 2009, just a slight touch of deflation. It is my understanding that State Ed has told school districts that the CPI to be used for calculating contingency budgets is 0%, but it has made no public announcement. That’s because it’s not currently the law. In Governor Paterson’s 2010-11 Executive Proposal for Aid to Education [pdf] we read, “The Governor’s proposal would prevent a negative contingency budget cap adjustment, even if the average change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a negative number. When the CPI change is negative the allowable adjustment to the contingent budget cap would be zero.”

    That might not sound too unfair to you now, but there could be years when deflation runs above 5%. To allow school districts to keep everything they have during deflationary periods is the same as giving them big raises when everyone else is getting less.

    You’ll recall that when fuel and utility prices were soaring, school districts constantly publicized their pain. But with fuel and utility prices lower than budgeted this school year, do you think school districts will say, “We can handle a 0% increase because of our unexpected savings”? Not on your life. In fact, I’m sure the superintendent, school board and teacher associations are telling legislators that a 0% contingency budget cap would be disastrous for education. I’m sure they want a minimum of 2%, and they would tell the people what a great sacrifice they’re making if they get it.

    In this post, Bob Lowry of the New York State Council of School Superintendents implicitly noted that sometimes the contingency budget cap gives schools a bigger boost than justified by current inflationary pressures. You don’t see school districts running to the governor and the legislature to scale back the size of the cap to make it fair when it’s too high. They quietly keep their advantage and tell voters, “It’s what the law requires.”

    But now that the formula has swung in favor of taxpayers, they aren’t saying, “You win some, you lose some.” They’re doing what the powerful always do–ensuring that anyone except them suffers. They want you to believe they play by the rules–rules they helped write to benefit themselves. But when the rules work against them, they demand that the rules be changed. What should we call people and organizations that do this?

    Even if the contingency budget CPI isn’t amended, you can bet that public schools will get the equivalent benefit through some other means, because they really can’t live with a 0% budget increase if their budgets fail. They have to pay staff their raises, which are averaging above 4% for this year and topping out as high as 7 to 9%, based on averages from 2007-08. Staff salaries, FICA and Medicare taxes amount to nearly 60% of school budgets. The other parts of the budget aren’t falling nearly as fast as employee costs are rising.

    Somebody in the “professional” press needs to be writing a story about this.