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Why Should Rye Pay More and Receive Less?
Ninety percent of all NYS schools are capable of staying under the tax cap. There are some terrific school districts with tighter budgets that deliver exceptional scores while respecting all taxpayers.
Isn’t it a shame that the Rye City School District Board of Education uses scare tactics to generate support for their tax- busting budget. They threaten parents with cuts to the most popular items if there is not a big budget increase. It seems awfully irresponsible to upset parents with these tactics. We all know there are many ways to meet the Districts’ needs without resorting to this brinkmanship.
It is time for the Rye City Board of Education to have an honest conversation with our entire community. They need to embrace education enhancing/cost-saving opportunities. For instance, over $7 million in cost savings were presented to and ignored by our BOE. Honestly, within that $7 million there must have been a few good proposals. Yes is the answer. No was the Board of Ed response. Why?
Implementing some of those savings would:
• Preserve quality education
• Preserve NYS tax break for all homeowners and limit local tax increase
• Improve community support for schools.
Real estate values are based on various issues, especially smart and judicious use of local tax dollars. That is why many have voted with their feet and left Rye. We have an opportunity to improve our schools and maintain a strong tax base, while respecting all stakeholders and their hard-earned money by keeping tax burdens sensible.
We can be more efficient without losing quality; it is just a matter of being more careful with the Rye taxpayer’s money. We must do better, we can do better, and the BOE knows it.
Vote “No” on the budget May 19.
— Christopher J. Cohan, ASLA
Rye Needs More Street Maintenance
I enjoy visiting Rye, where my daughter and her family live. She moved from the city about 12 years ago, and, like many of her friends, pays extremely high taxes. I know that most Rye tax dollars go to education, and our children are our most important assets, but infrastructure also needs to be attended to.
We have had terrible winters with much snow and plowing of streets and roads where I live in Delaware, but ours make Rye’s look like a third-world country.
When the general public does not see proper maintenance many will not treat the town with the proper respect.
— Dian Stein
Maligning Public Officials Has No Place in Rye Politics
It was dismaying to watch Rye Democratic Chair Meg Cameron traffic in rumor, suspicion, and innuendo at the April 8 City Council meeting. After Mayor Sack, the Council members who spoke out, and Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson appropriately and respectfully responded, one would have hoped that Ms. Cameron would have reflected on her performance and, as sensibly suggested by Councilwoman Laura Brett, communicated with City staff about her open FOIL request to move it along. (Let me stipulate that Ms. Cameron was, and is, entitled to a timely and complete response pursuant to applicable law by City staff; it appears that she did not get that; and she should have it without any further delay.)
However, Ms. Cameron instead chose to “double down” in her letter to The Rye Record (April 17, 2015). Not only did she opt to repeat her “rumors”, she opined that her failure to get a response “suggests that the rumors are true and that our elected officials have been inappropriately interfering with our Police Department…”
While it’s always possible that Ms. Cameron may merely be “warming up” for the coming election cycle, her baseless and unfounded casting of aspersions and maligning of our elected officials have no place in Rye politics.
— Peter Lane
Everything’s Coming Up Clover
I enjoyed your recent “Green Space” column, “The Path to a Healthy Lawn”. Having clover in your lawn is a positive, especially if the soil condition is poor due to years of synthetic treatments. Clover can help fee the whole system that lives under the turf, providing nitrogen like chemical fertilizers, but without the environmental downside. Plus, clover blossoms attract bumblebees that your tomatoes need to produce tasty fruit — and who doesn’t want tastier tomatoes!
By the way, the Rye Sustainability Committee just launched a healthy lawn program and the Westchester County Board of Legislators recently approved support for Diane Lewis’ The Great Healthy Yard Project. So, let’s all get outside and enjoy our healthy yards.
— Lori Fontanes
The Intimidation Game: There Are Always Cost-Cutting Options
Using scare tactics to rally the community in favor of the proposed Rye City schools budget may be an easy way to get out the “Yes” vote, but it’s not very honest.
The Superintendent says that if we don’t vote for the proposed budget, he’ll have NO CHOICE but to increase class size, cut foreign language instruction, cut increased technology spending, cut staff development, and not start new programs like all day kindergarten. Worried by what sounds like the death knell to a quality Rye education? If these were the only actions available should the proposed budget fail, I too, would be worried. But in fact other options, besides cutting academics, exist.
What are those options? The easiest is to use some of the $10million in reserves that will be available beyond what’s in the proposed budget. Financial reserves just can’t be ignored as a way to “keep the cuts as far from the children” as possible. And while spending reserves for on-going expenses is unsustainable, if the budget fails, then a revised budget that protects the kids will be needed.
At a proposed funding level of $1.2 million, the Superintendent could also make cuts to athletics. Rye needs to educate the “whole” student, but the primary objective must be academics. The scare-tactic cuts treat this area as sacred.
Planned increases in technology spending could also be reduced by a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Some rise may be needed, but it’s far from clear that spending more money is the only or best way to address the District’s perceived technology gaps.
And there’s also an increase of $126,000 proposed for facilities despite a decrease in debt service AND the significant enhancements made to the HS and MS from the lab center bond. There are always places to spend more money on facilities, but is this really the time to do so?
There are other areas where cuts could be made away from the students but a combination of the examples in this letter would more than address the Superintendent’s identified gap of $3 million should the budget not pass.
Is there a need to increase taxes for the schools? Absolutely. But trying to scare us into voting for a budget is no way to run a civilized, constructive, civic discussion.
— Bob Zahm
We’re Counting on Future School Budgets to Be Under the Tax Cap
In considering the current Rye City School District budget proposal, a few words about past history are appropriate. In 2011, the Committee for Strong Sustainable Schools successfully opposed a proposed $21 million school bond issue. Our opposition was based on the size of the bond, the rate of projected annual tax increases disclosed in the proposal documents, and the amount of reserves carried on the District financial statement.
Following this vote, productive discussions between our group and leaders of the School Board and administration resulted in a reduced bond proposal, an agreement to use reserves to mitigate future tax increases, and a commitment to keep future budgets, to the extent possible, under the tax cap.
On this basis we dropped our opposition to a revised bond proposal in the spring of 2012 and the bond was subsequently approved by the voters.
This year, at the invitation of the School Board leadership, members of our group met twice; once with the leaders, the second time with the School Superintendant and the Board leaders. The discussion focused on the proposed 2015/16 District budget and the necessary override vote under the NYS tax cap law.
The School Board members pointed out correctly that the last three budgets were tax–cap compliant as promised in 2012. Importantly they also argued cogently that after this budget, they should be able to return to a norm of tax-cap compliant budgets. We pointed out that budget-to-budget expenses have increased an average of 3.5% per year for the last five years, principally driven by ever-rising costs of personnel. This rate of increase will have to be moderated if future budgets are to remain tax-cap compliant.
We also urged the Board and
Administration to make more use of five-year forecasting in order to better focus upon the major cost drivers and for the benefit of keeping our community informed.
Balancing the Board’s conviction that this increase is a necessary one-time excess over the tax cap with our conviction that Rye can only have a strong school system when school and taxpayer interests are considered, we agreed not to oppose this budget proposal.
— Edward B. Dunn, Peter Larr, Jono Peters, Committee for Strong Sustainable Schools
Language Education Is Essential
We write on behalf of The City of Rye International Parents Group. Our group is extremely concerned with the proposed language program cuts (FLES, Writing Mentors, Foreign Language 6-12: Latin, Mandarin, French, ASL) that would occur if the proposed budget does not pass.
There is no question that language education is essential if our children are to succeed in the global economy. Most of us speak two to four languages, and we can attest that business and job opportunities came along because of our proficiency in languages. We want our children to have similar opportunities.
A few years ago, the Harrison School District implemented the world-renowned IB program. This program appeals to many international families because it is accepted in universities worldwide. We believe that if the language program is eliminated it will shift the interest of international families from Rye to other districts like Harrison.
Sadly, many of us do not have the right to vote in this budget election because we are not American citizens. This is despite the fact that we pay our taxes via the purchase or rental of properties in the City of Rye. We are a strong community of parents that participate with enthusiasm and commitment in all school affairs and would strongly encourage you to vote to pass the budget. All of our children need your vote.
— Pilar Buenahora and Elizete Groenendaal
Your School Budget Vote Matters
As working mothers, we feel it is important to be heard. We love the Rye schools and the wonderful community that we have chosen for our children. We often miss the daytime P.O. meetings and sidewalk conversations at pick-up, so we need to make an extra effort to stay in the know, share our views, and help when it matters. And it matters now!
There are serious school budget cuts on the table that could damage Rye’s reputation and, more importantly, the academic excellence we have come to expect. We can’t risk jeopardizing our children’s academic, social, and emotional needs because we did not have the time to understand the issues and why it’s so important to vote YES for the proposed budget.
To all the working parents out there, I think we can agree that a high-quality public education means small classes, strong academics with outstanding teachers, afterschool clubs, foreign language options, full-day kindergarten, music and performing arts opportunities, and strong athletic programs.
People move to Rye in order to benefit from a superior curriculum. All of this is at risk if we do not stand up to be counted.
We implore all parents (and other homeowners) to mark your calendars and turn up to vote on May 19.
— Mason Burnham, Jackie Cohen, Betsy Graseck, Eliza Scott Harris, Kelly Kressler, Lori Olbrys, Sarah Overbay, Yvette Vera-Pignato, Janey Rand, Birgitte Alvarez Rivero, Nadine Waxenberg, and Lee Woodruff
Voting for School Budget Is a Vote for Now and the Future
Hopefully, every resident is aware of the upcoming Rye School budget vote and it’s importance. There is plenty of information online if you need to get up to speed.
One of our sons went to a private high school and the other two went to Rye schools; all three boys have now graduated. Whether you still have children in Rye schools, think about the future. Reputations take years to build and are destroyed very easily. It is no different with the Rye City School’s reputation. A family considering moving to Rye as a place to raise their children will value the Rye School’s top-rated education system as much as you did when you made the choice to live here.
We all have one vote, but you all also can use the power of your email chain to raise awareness to make a difference greater than one vote. Please make an educated, informed decision based on the facts. Thank you for taking the time to understand the issues and make a difference through your vote.
There is only ONE vote to approve the tax cap override and only one chance to get this right, so your vote counts on May 19. Severe budget cuts kick in right away if we do not get the 60% vote needed to pass. We all take a lot of pride in living in Rye. Here is your chance to show it!
— Paul Murphy