VIDEO: As New Rochelle Board Adopts Proposed Budget, Members Take Note of Financial Irregularities Reported Exclusively by Talk of the Sound

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VIDEO: As New Rochelle Board Adopts Proposed Budget, Members Take Note of Financial Irregularities Reported Exclusively by Talk of the Sound

May 02, 2014 - 22:49

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- On April 22nd, the Board of Education adopted the proposed 2014-15 school district budget to be put before voters on May 20, 2014 and has approved the 2014-15 school district calendar. The proposed budget of $245,457,331 is state tax levy cap-compliant.

The vote was 8-1 with Board Member Jeffrey Hastie the lone no vote against adoption.

Hastie explained that he could not support the budget not due to what the budget stands for but because he, his fellow board members and community members had not received answers to many questions raised during the Budget Review Process and that Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn had failed to address serious concerns about overtime, inventory management, restoration of programs cancelled in past budgets, the status of the new labor contract and more.

In voting for the budget, Rachel Relkin expressed "grave concerns" regarding "certain aspects of the budget, especially on the operations side" and confidence that Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff will take a "hard look at some of these issues that have recently been highlighted and that appropriate action will be taken."

"In my opinion, it is incumbent on the board to create a climate where accountability is expected required and delivered to our community," she said.

"I would like to thank Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff for setting the tone for this budget season with the Superintendent's message back in February."

Relkin was referring to Korostoff's statement on "Buildings & Grounds Abuse"

We are keenly aware of the concerns which have been raised publicly about potential abuse within this sector of our operations. The installation of GPS devices in District vehicles was an initial step in monitoring the productivity of our workers. The institution of a time management system for our employees is a further step that we are now prepared to discuss during upcoming negotiations.

Hastie jumped back into second Relkin's remarks on Korostoff.

In voting for the budget, Lianne Merchant acknowledged Relkin's concerns, saying she was "looking forward to the the new found the the the revenue we will find" in areas such as inventory, overtime spending and "some of the things that were mentioned earlier."

In voting for the budget, Chrisanne Petrone stressed that the vote was for a total dollar amount and that changes in specific line items can and will still be made.

In voting for the budget, Board President David Lacher noted that the budget came in under the tax cap while preserving staffing levels, retaining programs and maintaining sensible class sizes.

Lacher made news when he reported that New Rochelle had been "relieved" of its designation as a district under "moderate financial stress" and that there would be more news on that.

The following day, the New York State Comptroller released the 2010-2013 Local Accountability audit for the New Rochelle schools.

NYS Comptroller Report on Financial Condition of CSDNR.pdf

In voting for the budget, Deidre Polow address the issue of missing financial controls under Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn.

"During the budget meetings I questioned the lack of inventory and suggest that this be done sooner rather than later and I am requesting a timetable so the board can monitor implementation", said Polow.

"It's important in addition that stringent controls be upgraded and added to insure that monies are wisely spent on the education of students and not wasted because of incompetence", she added.

Polow admitted her own culpability

"I was also part of the missteps", said Polow who went on to express her expectation that the financial irregularities under Quinn will be "corrected after investigation and discussion".

Polow went on to thank each member of the cabinet by name but omitted John Quinn.

The District is promoting several aspects of the Proposed 2014-15 School District Budget

-Provides for favorable class sizes;
-Offers a full range of educational programs;
-Maintains all current staff positions;
-Addresses safety and security of students and staff.

2014-15 Proposed School District Budget By the Numbers

Projected Tax Rate Increase: 2.16%
Budget-to-Budget Increase - 2.5%
Tax levy increase: 1.41% = tax cap limit of 1.41%

May 6th will be the Public Hearing on the Proposed Budget at New Rochelle High
School Library. The C.O.W. Session at 7 p.m.; Regular Meeting: 7:30 p.m.; Public Hearing on the 2014-2015 Proposed School District Budget: 7:40 p.m.

The Budget Vote & Election will take place on Tuesday, May 20, 2014
7 a.m. – 9 p.m. at various School District polling places

For those who struggled to follow along as Lianne Merchant channeled here inner William Faulkner, we provide a transcript:

I'd like to say that I am also in support of the budget and and I'm actually looking forward to the the new found the the the revenue we will find as we continue to to you know comb through the aspects of the budget regarding the inventory and the expenditures regarding the reduction in overtime on some of the things that were mentioned earlier. But the the the key thing here for me is that these you know we have we're at a point now where we are going to see some restoration of some of the I believe we will see some of the restoration of some of the programming that had to be reduced over the in the recent past and that's what I am hoping for. I'm hoping to see the additional orchestra, the additional art classes and those kinds of things. I'm hoping to see more going towards the social assistance services to the youth in the high school and some of the things the students come before to that they felt heartfelt about and I'm what I'm also looking forward to is our working as a community together and our taking a look at and not only that our own kids that are sitting around the table in our own homes are fine and taking the right courses and have the right support at school but the kids in the neighborhood who are part of the community who don't have someone looking after them that we take a stand and we take a look at helping all of the students and I think that's part of is what we might feel is missing a little bit these days but I I think that once we begin to look at some of the positive things that we can all do in putting this you know because the budget is one thing but out collective working together is quite another and I think that's what's going to take us to the you know restore the luster in the city and really I'm hopeful very hopeful about that going forward and I always say you know things can't stay bad in terms of the economy forever you know what goes up must come down but what goes down is going to get a bounce and start in a positive trajectory and that's what I am looking forward to and you know that's I think that's we're headed in the right direction this time.