Sources close to the ongoing budget discussions within the New Rochelle School District have told Talk of the Sound that the School Board has ordered Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak to get out his carving knife and start making cuts to his proposed $8 million spending increase in the wake of widespread anger over the District's proposed $230 million budget which many believe will come with a 6.9% tax increase -- possibly higher.
In what was described as an animated, heated discussion, school board members made clear they expect the district to take a hard line on district spending and in instructions given to the district's three-person labor negotiations team; Assistant Superintendents John Quinn and Peg Pecunia and Le Fantôme de l'board, sometimes known as Jeffrey Kehl, the outside counsel for the school district. Some Board members who initially supported the District's 3.75% budget increase have now withdrawn that support as they have come to recognize the depth of concern among voters over increased property taxes at a time when more Americans are out of work that any time in U.S. history.
Asked about his recent public request to the board that the presentation of a final budget, originally scheduled for next week, be pushed back to April 21st, Organisciak told Talk of the Sound he is hoping there might be more money forthcoming from Albany and that the District needed time to make "adjustments" to the budget in light of public comment made to the school board over the past few weeks at the so-called "budget workshops".
As we have reported previously, many New Rochelle residents have come before the board to criticize the district for seeking an increase of over $8 million in the school budget at a time when the rest of the community is experiencing significant financial pain.
More importantly, board members have come around to a point made repeatedly at Talk of the Sound since the day the budget was first released: the key assumption driving 75% of the district's revenue projections -- that assessed value of property will decline at the same 1.4% rate as last year - is not supported by any of the available data. Quite the contrary, City Finance Commissioner Howard Ratner has told Talk of the Sound the City is projecting a decline of 3%. Cities like White Plains are reporting a 300% increase in appeals for property assessments and housing values in Westchester have plummeted over the past 12 months.