It is Budget season again. As such, there will be overtures by the BOE to recruit and solicit opinions from the New Rochelle community. These able volunteers will meet and provide their opinions; the BOE will hold meetings in various schools; folks will speak, yell and provide their two cents on what they believe to be good aspects of the school district and those that are not so good. As in the past, there will orchestrated speeches by the various PTA’s and the PTA Council who will unanimously approve whatever the school district tells them to approve. Dissension will be stifled and the Teacher’s union, in the person of Marty Daly, will sit idly grinning in the sidelines knowing full well that no changes will occur as the community will always pay for increases to the school budget. Sometimes some of us will try to suggest necessary correctives, but they will be ignored or BOE members will simply give you the evil eye for having the cojones to have brought it up. Let me suggest some savings based on what many public employees already pay and in the end simply some real savings for programs or services that are not legally required. Please note the word legally required (there are lawyers on the BOE who I suspect can read well):
• In the most recent 2012-13 school budget, $1,442,332 was designated for Non-Public (in District) and Non-Public (Out of District) transportation expense. You may want to ask was this expense legally required. Which local private and out of district school districts are benefiting from this generosity? Note this is not out of district special education transportation charges. So, it begs the question. Why not simply do away with this service and return $1.4 million back into our coffers?
• For many years, the same law firm has provided legal advice to the BOE. In the most recent budget $440,000 was allocated for the legal services provided which is frequently utilized by the BOE despite having two lawyers on the Board and a chief executive, in the form of the Superintendent, who is also a lawyer. Note that an RFP has not been conducted to invite other law firms. My suggestion a couple of years ago was to hire an in-house lawyer with a P/T paralegal at ½ the cost that could provide legal advice 24/7. Still waiting for someone to say “hey wait a minute”.
• Our total health insurance cost is about $21,825,678. That’s right $21 Million. This number can go down. As is customary of most public and private employees, the cost sharing has changed, but in New Ro, it has changed at a microscopic level. One consideration is to have one vendor provide all of the medical and dental services. Make vision an employee driven cost, like most employers do. Why do we need so many different medical vendors?
The response on some of these issues, specially the health insurance is that the district negotiates with the union with kid gloves. The union drives and controls all negotiations. For example, the president of the union gets paid over $120,000 to represent the union against the district. He teaches one class a week as this has been a sweetheart deal. No other school district in the United States has this arrangement. Every other union in the USA has a system of releasing the employee to do union work and the union pays their entire salary. Next time you are in front of the board, ask a question. You will note that you will never get an immediate answer. Smells bad doesn’t it?
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