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Peekskill School Officials Thank Voters for Support

$72 million budget, $3.16 million bond issue approved; Glickert, Urbanowicz returned to board for second terms

Peekskill school officials were lavish with their thanks to the community
this week after voters approved a $72 million budget and a $3.16 million bond
issue. Residents who went to the polls Tuesday, May 17, also returned unopposed
incumbents Douglas Glickert and Joseph Urbanowicz to the Board of Education for
their second three-year terms.

“We thank the community for coming out, exercising their right to vote
and supporting the budget,” board President Michael Simpkins said Tuesday night
after posting returns at the Administration Center. “It means a lot to the kids
as we move forward to provide the best education for our kids. We appreciate
your support with this difficult task.”

Regarding the bond for building and safety improvements, he said, “This is an opportunity to grab a lot of state funds (70 percent of the cost will be reimbursed by New York State). It’s important to take advantage of this to improve our buildings, grounds, safety and education.”

Simpkins continued his sentiments during a board meeting Wednesday, May
18, thanking the community and the school officials who helped prepare the
budget and the bond, especially Dr. Larry Licopoli, interim superintendent of
schools, Gregory Sullivan, assistant superintendent for business, the Citizens’
Budget Advisory Committee, his fellow board members and Debra McLeod, district
clerk.

Of the 579 votes on the budget for the 2011-12 school year, 329, or 57
percent, favored it. The budget totals
$72,013,090 and will raise taxes 3 percent. It increases spending
$1,032,844, or 1.46 percent, over the 2010-11 budget of $70,980,246. A home
assessed at $10,000, the district average, will pay $6,180 in taxes.

Of the 573 votes on the bond issue, 309, or 54 percent, favored it.

Highlights of the $3,165,000 projects to be funded include cafeteria and
kitchen renovations at Peekskill High School, retaining wall repair at Oakside
Elementary School and security upgrades at all buildings.

Urbanowicz received 437 votes and Glickert received 432.

The results, officially accepted by the board Wednesday, differ slightly
from the unofficial totals compiled after the polls closed Tuesday because of
the inclusion of affidavit ballots. The totals also include absentee ballots.
There were no write-in votes.

Looking ahead to his new term, Glickert emphasized keeping taxes as low
as possible, especially in difficult economic times, while maintaining a strong
academic program and fully funding the arts, music, drama and sports. He also
hopes to use the recent safety survey as a springboard to providing a safer
environment for the entire school community. Another goal is sharing services and
“working together for our kids” with the city of Peekskill, houses of worship
and not-for-profit agencies.

Urbanowicz said the district needs to develop a priority list and make sure the plans it develops are implemented. Contract negotiations are a major challenge for the coming year. “We have to work with the employees to reduce costs and improve the quality of education. It can’t be business as usual, and we have to work together. It won’t be easy but … I’m confident we can be a model for others,” he said.

Another major concern is the “significant transition” with James Willis coming to the district as the new superintendent of schools. “We want to help get him off to a good start, every way we can,” he said.

Urbanowicz is also concerned about job and career prospects for Peekskill High School graduates, especially those who may not go on to college. “We need to give all our children a chance to find and develop skills, technical training,” that will give them hope for the future and prospects for employment, he said.

“Everyone has their thing” that they can do well and the district has to help them cultivate those talents. He also suggested monitoring U.S. Department of Labor forecasts; given the promising outlook for all sorts of jobs in health care, for example, he suggested a partnership with Hudson Valley Hospital Center for students interested in that field. Another goal is to improve the image of Peekskill’s schools along with the quality of education, he said.

Licopoli added his thanks to the community, calling the budget “a good
educational plan” that “puts the district in a good position going forward.”

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