Facing a proposed budget that could see the loss of 100 jobs, New Rochelle School District residents turned out Wednesday to hear details on the spending package.
A healthy portion of the large crowd of people who came to the New Rochelle High School library were concerned about the decision to eliminate busing of New Rochelle resident students out of the district to attend private schools. Special needs students would still be bused to their out-of-district schools.
Superintendent Richard Organisciak presented the board of education a $229,475,484 budget for 2011-12, up $4,592,181 or 2.04 percent over the 2010-11 budget.
The projected tax rate increase would be 4.5 percent, with the projected tax rate of $662.27 per $1,000 of assessed value, up $28.52.
Assistant Superintendent John Quinn the district has a few hurdles to overcome in formulating the 2011-12 budget. Payments to the teacher retirement system are up $2.9 million, while the employment retirement system costs are up $1.2 million.
The district received federal stimulus funds in the past of $2.2 million and there is no comparable funding available for 2011-12. Health insurance costs increased $2.5 million, and the district need to set aside an additional $500,000 for unemployment benefits, due to impending layoffs.
Quinn said a budget that would maintain all existing services would have been about $8 larger. He also said the budget being proposed for 2011-12 is about the same size as the 2009-10 budget and is about $60,000 less than a contingency budget.
A hiring freeze, retirements and resignations will reduce the job losses, Quinn said, but it will not be enough cover the approximately 100 positions to be axed.
"There will be 75 active staff members whose positions will be eliminated in 2011-12," he said.
If the busing of private school students were to be put back in the budget, Quinn said, it would raise the expenses by over $1.9 million.
District spokesman Paul Costiglio said the cut would affect only fifth graders or below, because the school district had already eliminated busing grades six through 12. Further, it would not affect students who go to a private school "within New Rochelle if they met specific distance requirements," he said
Dina Sterman said it was difficult to express how the decision to eliminate busing for her children.
She was drawn to New Rochelle 14 years ago because the district transported private school students out of the district, and having her children get a Jewish day school education was important to her.
"It was close enough to make us eligible for busing from the city," she said.
"The cost of busing our children to school will break many of us," Sterman said.
Mona Chamariq has a 10-year-old who goes to the French American School in Larchmont. She chose to live in New Rochelle because transportation was provided out of district.
"We pay our taxes here, and we are not using any of the school district," she said, adding that forcing more parents to drive their children to school won't be good for the environment.
"New Rochelle should lead by example," Chamariq said. "The New Rochelle school board is going the opposite direction."
Russell Mannis, who said he has lived in New Rochelle for 23 years, said the elimination of private school busing was a bad business decision.
"The average homeowner is paying about $15,000 in taxes, and it is costing somewhere around $2,000," for the transportation, Mannis said.
"This has been enormously profitable and an enormous contribution of revenues to New Rochelle for many years," he said.
Brian Kalb, a dentist, said the busing change was all his patients were talking about Wednesday. He said they were wondering if the affected parents would relocate.
"I'm asking you tonight to please remove the elimination of the busing from your budget," Kalb said, "so we can ensure (our) quality of life."
He said taxpayers with children who attend private schools give the school system extra money.
"We pay for it," Kalb said. "We deserve it."