Letter: Port Chester schools in a financial quagmire
February 14, 2019 at 7:29 a.m.
After my loss in the last Port Chester school board election, I have kind of retired from public comments. I did not renew my subscription to the Westmore News because of its age bias comments about Mr. Cuddy and myself, saying that 70-year-olds are out of touch with what’s going on today; enough said.
I am writing about this new advocacy effort taking place in a few villages. Let me say that I commend anyone who takes time to go after the politicians has my support. But there are many things that need to be brought to light. First, it’s common knowledge that school boards are the biggest wasters of tax money; this came from the state comptroller’s office a few years ago.
Let’s use the Port Chester school system as an example. Our debt service is staggering; our annual budget is over $100 million; we have bonds currently being paid off, and when the new $80 million bond comes on board, we will have debt of $200 million to deal with! Where is the money going to come from? No one ever talks about cuts, what about being somewhat frugal, what about responsible money management. The present configuration of our board does not know what these things mean. Perfect example, two years ago we received a windfall $3.7 million in aid. What happened? The board went through it like sailors on a weekend liberty; no thought for the next year.
Now there are limited ways for school funding, money from the state and property taxes. You can forget getting much relief from the state. New York State is in the hole for tens of billions of dollars; you can thank Mr. Cuomo for that. He gives away money and programs without knowing who will pay; you know it won't be him. Next we have us, the taxpayers. How much can be squeezed out of this little village; we don't even know how many people are living here. Mark my words the next vote the board will put to the taxpayers is to break the tax cap; they have no choice.
Just a little information on our budget, 85 percent goes for salaries and benefits, another 4 percent for busing, not much left to take care of our daily expenses and infrastructure needs. Now our budget has to take in teachers’ contracts which will have to be dealt with, and what about the dozens of certioraris that have been filed for? We have no contingency fund for that. But we have two self-proclaimed financial experts on our board, Mr. Wolff and Mr. Russo. I’m sure they can lead us out of our financial problems. I forgot that when I was running for the board, Mr. Wolff had to be told what a certiorari was!
I have always considered myself a realist, not a dreamer. Face the facts as they come at you. With our present financial climate here in the village, I predict in the next year or so double-digit tax increases. Don't turn a blind eye, it could easily happen. Then what will happen to people struggling to pay their taxes, how will they overcome this additional debt? You think King Ed Kliszus cares? He has what he wants and now you are going to have to bite the bullet. I hope everyone who voted to put us in this quagmire of financial distress can look at their neighbors without feeling guilty; we are on the oblivion express and the brakes are gone!
Thomas F. Ceruzzi